Dark and quite depressing drama from the WW1 winter
year of 1917-1918 about young Mikhail Alekseyevich Polyakov
(Leonid Bichevin) appointed country doctor to the village (or district)
of Szalomietiew. This time without the usual black
humour and satire that so often can be seen in Balabanov's work.
But it's a fascinating and powerful watch, very colorful and beautifully
shot by Aleksandr Simonov, the cinematographer
Aleksey Balabanov used for his last 4 films - Gruz 200/Cargo 200 in
2007, Morfiy/Morphine in 2008, Kochegar/Stoker in
2010 and Me Too in 2012.
Dr. Misha (Leonid Bishevin), surgeon Dr. Anatoliy
Lukich (Andrey Panin) and nurse Anna Nikolayevna (Ingeberga
Dapkunaite) at the dinner table
The film is based on an autobiographical mini-novel
by the great author Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita,
Heart of a Dog, The Fatal Eggs and The White Guard) one of my favourite
writers. Bulgakov was a medic in WW1 and
was injured, and when he was appointed a job as country doctor he started
to inject himself with morphine and got
addicted. Also Sergey Bodrov worked on the script and adapted the Bulgakov
This is a non-happy drama about sickness and health,
drugs, sex and death. It uses text titles to describe the scenes
that is about to follow, as: Winter, The Second Injection, First Amputation,
Maybe Balabanov was inspired by his own style here, as he used text
frames to describe the ongoings in his wonderfully
weird 1998 "Of Freaks and Men", in silent movie style.
Some IMBD reviewer says that this film was shot in Uglich north of Moscow.
In the autumn of 1917 young doctor Mikhail Alekseyevich
Polyakov arrives to a country village by train and horse carriage.
He's met by the surgeon Anatoliy Lukich and the two nurses Anna Nikolayevna
and Pelagia Ivanovna, and they have
waited since spring for a new doctor to be appointed. The last one went
away never to return, and left his collection of
medical books and his record player. Young Misha is in for a lot of
hard and often gruesome work, and beware of the ultra
nasty leg amputation scene. With the help of the left behind medical
litterature Misha manages well, but ....
the hard work takes it's toll and after letting nurse Anna giving him
a morphine injection for some minor problem, he feels
good and sharp. Then he takes another injection .... and another ....
and .... Soon Dr. Polyakov is a morphine junkie.
Misha is called Majesty by the local peasants (they
would probably have been serfs some 50 years earlier) and besides
the gratitude from the locals for him treating them he also gets some
bonuses as having sex with noblewoman Ekaterina
Karlovna (Katarina Radivojevic). She, the daughter of the landowning
(maybe a Kulak) Osipovich (Sergey Garmash).
Both the Bolshevik revolution and WW1 are going on, but these major
happenings has not yet reached the village.
Visiting the mansion/palace of the decidely non-revolutionary
landowner Osipovich, they talk politics and Misha is asked
on which side he is, and he answers that for him there are only the
healthy and the sick. Later in the film The Revolution
reaches the village when the palace is put on fire killing the whole
It's a bleak film until then, but from here it goes pitch-black when
Misha loses the fight against his addiction.
This alternative market DVD presents the film in an
anamorphic widescreen ratio 2.35:1 with a russian audio and with
english subtitles. Region free ? No extras