A child of the 1920s, Lilianna Lungina was a Russian Jew born to privilege, spending her childhood in Germany, France, and Palestine. But after her parents moved to the USSR when she was thirteen, Lungina became witness to many of the era’s greatest upheavals. Exiled during World War II, dragged to KGB headquarters to report on her cosmopolitan friends, and subjected to her new country’s ruthless, systematic anti-Semitism, Lungina nonetheless carved out a remarkable career as a translator who introduced hundreds of thousands of Soviet readers to Knut Hamsun, August Strindberg, and, most famously, Astrid Lindgren. In the process, she found herself at the very center of Soviet cultural life, meeting and befriending Pasternak, Brodsky, Solzhenitsyn, and many other major figures of the era’s literature. Oleg Dorman's brilliant film, which became a sensation when finally released over 4 nights on Russian television in 2009, fully captures her extraordinary life ― at once heartfelt and unsentimental ― is an unparalleled tribute to a lost world.
Director: Oleg Dorman
Cast: Lilianna Lungina
Producers: Felix Dektor, Oleg Dorman, Irina Martynova
Director of Photography: Vadim Yusov
Second Camera: Rodion Varshavsky
English Translation: Anna Zakharyeva
A 15 Episode Documentary Series
Language: Russian w/ English subtitles
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"There is a problem with this film. It's a simple problem which cost us 10 years persuading producers and then broadcasters to finish and present the film. “Podstrochnik” is out of genre. It's neither a film about the history of Russia in the 20th century (though it also is), nor a story of a woman (though it, of course, is). If one needs to decide on which "shelf" to put it, then choose the one with fiction. Or displace your Proust set to memoirs."
The start of World War II. Poverty stricken and fleeing the advancing German troops, Lilianna must choose between helping in the war effort or leaving Moscow with her panic stricken mother. Opting for the latter, they head off to provincial Naberezhnye Chelny, where Lilianna finds work at a local newspaper.
Lilianna writes a letter to the now leader, Yury Andropov, with the hope of traveling with Semyon to Europe. After returning from a long journey of over 11 months, Semyon suffers a 3rd heart attack and dies. In the end, Lilianna suggests that we should look closely at people around us; to trouble ourselves to try and see what they have within them. That perhaps it can be a narrow path leading to some joy.