Director: Georgiy Daneliya. Starring: Evgeny Leonov, Yuri Yakovlev, Stanislav Lyubshin, Levan Gabriadze. USSR, 1986. Imbd: 8.2. My rating: 4/4. Absurd surreal dystopian sci-fi comedy.
– Patzak! Where is your muzzle? Mister PG ordered – all patzaks should wear a muzzle. And
(Uef speaking to Violinist)
– When the society does not have a pants colour differentiation, it does not have the aim. But when it does not have an aim…
Wanna see some truly unorthodox and brilliant sci-fi? Ever heard of “Kin-dza-dza!”? Probably you wouldn’t expect this from a Soviet science fiction, but it is actually a black absurdist comedy set on a faraway planet. It’s hilarious, weird and sad parody on both capitalist and communist societies.
In Soviet Union “Kin-dza-dza!” quickly gained a cult status (although it was not the most popular movie when released in 1986), but it was released with English subtitles almost only 20 years later thus remaining virtually unknown elsewhere. Well, now it’s the time to restore the justice. It’s still surprising how Daneliya, at that time already a very respected and popular director (he started to make movies in 50-s), still managed to surpass all the censorship. Several party leaders changed during the production as well. The movie cast is very impressive and includes on of the best Soviet actors of all time – Evgeny Leonov and Yuri Yakovlev, both responsible for being main protagonists of the most bright, beloved and popular characters the Soviet cinema has ever seen (The Irony of Fate, Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession, Gentlemen of Fortune and many others). Of course, involving them in a much weirder “Kin-dza-dza!” was a big luck.
It’s also worth noting that sci-fi had a special position in USSR. The strict censorship covered almost areas of culture. But since sci-fi genre operates with something that does not exist, it was possible to use it as a loophole in creating something original. That makes sense, because when you cannot present a different opinion about the past or present, why not play around with something seemingly non connected to our reality.
By the way, Yuri Yakovlev mentioned later that he agreed to play in the movie just because he adored Daneliya’s work and did not understand a shit of what he was asked to do during the actual filming. Leonov and Yakovlev easily steal all the attention delivering an outstanding performance, showing an endless array of emotions with a crazy absurdist hint. They look like two homeless thugs with an aristocratic manners following some absurd logic. All other actors did very well too and main character Stanislav Lyubshin was just adorable in his willingness to do the right thing and help even those who tricked him multiple times.
“Kin-dza-dza!” is a story about two guys, an engineer Uncle Vova and a young violinist from Georgia who accidentally are transported from Moscow to a faraway planet Pluke. It is basically a huge desert with some kind of a medieval society that lives by barbarian rules though combining it with some pretty advanced technology. Mostly they live underground. Soon our couple meets the natives, trying to find a way to go back ot Earth.
The movie is remarkable in developing it’s own mythology – the natives of Pluke have their own language which elements are essential part of the movie (and some of them became integral part of Russian language and culture), social and class differentiation are developed in a curious way. Of course, under all this hilarious stuff about how the colour of your pants determine how many times you squat when meeting people in a higher position is hiding a sinister grin about our world. Here everything is exaggerated extensively. “Tsak” is a small bell worn on the nose to show a low social status of the wearer. An “ecilop” (read the word backwards and you’ll get it) does not wander around to prevent crime, but rather to collect chatles (local money). There is almost no water, so don’t be surprised when the sand goes out of a water tap.
All the machinery in the movie looks weird as hell too – the spaceships, the underground houses, the guns seem to be combined elements of something else (and in fact this is how they were built for the movie). The world here is full of sand and rust (the movie was shot in a real desert Karakum in Kazakhstan). Everybody tries to trick each other with the main characters from Earth being the only exception. “Kin-dza-dza!” is a very minimal movie – mostly everything happens in the desert, but all the details are elaborated with an incredible attention and are very original. Costumes deserve a special mention – it’s something between Middle Ages and cyberpunk.
The movie is quiet slow and pretty long (135 min!) so it was divided in two parts when shown in cinema. So take your time to get used to it’s pace and weird style. I watched it in two steps as well – finally, it’s a comedy, so you could do the same. Actually, I could easily advice to do so as the movie is lush and full of details. By the way, Daneliya did many great movies (that are more “normal” too). For example,”Mimino” (1977) is surely one the best tragicomedies ever.
Worth watching? “Kin-dza-dza!” for sure will be one of the most incredible, original and unorthodox sci-fi you have ever seen. Yes, it’s slow and not for everyone. Even the director admitted himself it should have been cut. Daneliya was not allowed to do so though because then the state film studio would not fulfill their monthly plan for amount of videominutes produced… but this is how we got so many wonderful scenes that otherwise would have been cut, right? I don’t know how a movie like that could be made now. Somehow it managed to mock both communism and capitalism while still remaining a hilarious sci-fi comedy set in a harsh absurd world. Nevertheless, you can easily feel the beat of the movie’s kind heart. The actors are outstanding and balance with grace between being pitiful, weird and funny. Much more could be said about this movie, but just go and watch it. You will understand everything by yourself.