Alexander Rogozhkin - Director




Nationality: Russian. Born: Leningrad, 3 October 1949. Education: graduated in History from Leningrad State University, 1972; graduated from Director's Department at VGIK, 1982. Career: designer for Leningrad television, 1971–72; designer at Lenfilm, 1974–77; clip-maker for advertising, 1980–84; author of the very popular Russian television series Cops. Awards: Nika Prize, Russian Academy of Cinematography, for best director, 1995.


Films as Director:

1979

Brother has Come ( Brat priekhal ) (short)

1980

Redheadp Redhead ( Ryzhaiapryzhaia ) (short)

1985

For the Sake of a Few Lines ( Radi neskol'kikh strochek )

1986

The Golden Button ( Zolotaia pugovitsa ) (for TV)

1988

Miss Millionaire ( Miss millionersha )

1989

The Guard ( Karaul )

1991

The Third Planet ( Tret'ia planeta ) (sc); The Chekist ( Chekist )

1993

Life with an Idiot ( Zhizn' s idiotom ) (sc); The Act (Akt) (sc)

1995

Peculiarities of the National Hunt ( Osobennosti natsional'noi okhoty ) (sc)

1996

Operation "Happy New Year" ( Operatsiia "S novym godom" ) (sc)

1998

Peculiarities of National Fishing ( Osobennosti natsional'noi rybalki ) (sc); Checkpoint ( Blokpost ) (sc); Cops ( Menty ) (for TV)



Publications


By ROGOZHKIN: book—


Osobennosti natsional'noi okhoty/Osobennosti natsional'noi rybalki , Moscow, 1999.

On ROGOZHKIN: articles—

"Blokpost," in Seans (St. Petersburg), 17–18, 1999.

"Osobennosti natsional'noi okhoty," in Seans (St. Petersburg), no. 12, 1996.

Saveliev, Dmitri, "Osobennosti russkogo natsional'nogo travmatizma v novogodnii period," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 10, 1996.

Sirivlia, Natalia, "Vot takoe kino," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 3, 1997.

Stishova, Elena, "Zapiski s kavkazskoi voiny," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 1, 1999.


* * *

Alexander Rogozhkin is a rising star of post-Soviet cinema. His breakthrough came with Chekist (1991), followed by Life with an Idiot (1993), the latter being based on Viktor Erofeev's eponymous novel about a humanist intellectual and his wife who adopt an idiot to fulfil a mission in their lives, yet never expect the violence they encounter.

Rogozhkin gained widespread popularity in Russia with Peculiarities of the National Hunt and, later, with the sequel Peculiarities of National Fishing. In these films Rogozhkin explores the notorious love of Russians for vodka as a motif for a comedy of social reality. In Peculiarities of the National Hunt a Finn, who is researching the traditions of the Russian hunt from the time of the tsars to the present day, joins a group of five Russians from the military and police forces in the hunt. The excessive drinking bouts the Russians associate with hunting are, however, not what the Finn expects. He initially refuses to drink, while he dreams all the time of the imperial hunting party of the late nineteenth century, stylishly hunting down a fox with their dogs, elegantly riding horses, and, of course, conversing in French, while he, the non-Russian speaker, is marginalized in the group. Drinking may have no purpose, but it is a habit that makes social and national differences disappear, and that lifts temporal boundaries in bringing together past and present. The world returns to its purest form, without any boundaries or limits.

Rogozhkin made two sequels to this very popular film, both starring Alexei Buldakov as the General Ivolgin, and the comic actor Leonid Yarmolnik. Operation Happy New Year sees the same characters on a hospital ward, celebrating New Year. The characters' (or patients') respective histories bring them, and the spectator, to the neurology department: a writer of erotic novels who broke his fingers in an experiment of having sex while tied to the bed; General Ivolgin who falls off a stage as he has his New Year television address recorded; a Russian businessman who is hunted through fields by two mafia hitmen and runs into a pole, sustaining injury to his genitals. All possible groups, or classes—(pseudo)-intellectual, military, and business—of the new Russian society are brought together in the ward, where they join the patients already there, including an actor and a "fatally ill" patient, and, of course, the hospital staff. Class separation becomes impossible, and social boundaries are broken, while all the patients are dressed in gowns and masked with various parts of plaster-casts. The General organises the party with all the strategic precision of a military manoeuvre: he arranges for a tree to be stolen, food to be bought, and the women from the other wing to be invited. The General represents power, and in his physical appearance he is a cross-section between Brezhnev and General Lebed. He organises the feast, conducts the choir, and supervises the operation. Without military power harmony is impossible. Rogozhkin's film thus celebrates the return to a past where authority is in command, to the golden past of the Soviet period.

In Peculiarities of National Fishing alcohol is responsible for the group of military men and the Finn accidentally mooring on the Finnish coast. In many ways this film is a weak reflection of Peculiarities of the National Hunt. Rogozhkin capitalises, however, on the extremely witty scripts for these films, combined with the casting of very popular Russian actors: not stars, but the darlings of millions of television viewers.

One of Rogozhkin's most recent feature films is an anti-war film set in the Caucasus, titled Checkpoint (1998). Rogozhkin portrays a strategically unimportant checkpoint on some mountain road that leads to a Muslim cemetery. The lack of a general sense of the soldiers' mission and their part in the overall strategy of the operation is reflected in the film's composition, focused on detail and episodic in structure. The film takes the genre of notes from a war: a chronicler-narrator, no hero, tells the events as they happen: the soldiers raid a house in a local village where a boy is holding on to a mine that he sets off as they enter. The men manage to escape before the house explodes, but they are—mistakenly—thought to have caused the explosion. When the detachment has taken position on the checkpoint, the soldiers are hampered in their routine by a sniper. In order to negotiate a cease-fire, the soldiers "High" (Kaif) and "Ash" (Pepel) are sent to the village. Scared of what might happen, High clutches on to an activated mine that he later carefully disposes of in the wood. An old shepherd stumbles over the mine off and loses his hand in the accident. Under pressure from the local community to turn over the culprit, the commander surrenders "Rat" (Krysa): he sacrifices one of his men to maintain the status quo. Rat's body is returned to the checkpoint, wrapped in a sheepskin. As "Lawyer" (Yurist) tries to pull the body off the road, he is shot by the sniper, Masha, a local woman whom he is fond of, since she can no longer distinguish him from the others after he has swapped with Ash his striking helmet decorated with a foxtail. Rogozhkin shows the everyday life and trivial events of the war without glorifying the war or creating heroes. He demythologises the war before a myth has even been created. While the national idea may be contained in fishing or the hunt, it is plainly absent from the military action in the Cauasus.

—Birgit Beumers

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