|Directed by Eldar Ryazanov|
Cinematography Vladimir Nakhabtsev
Release date January 1981
Director Eldar Ryazanov
Production company Mosfilm
|Music by Andrey Petrov|
Production company Mosfilm
Initial release 1980
Music director Andrey Petrov
|Starring Stanislav Sadalskiy
Written by Eldar Ryazanov, Grigori Gorin
Cast Valentin Gaft, Oleg Basilashvili, Yevgeny Leonov, Stanislav Sadalskiy
Similar The Garage, Station for Two, The Promised Heaven, Zigzag of Success, A Cruel Romance
Say a Word for the Poor Hussar (Russian: О бедном гусаре замолвите слово…, translit. O bednom gusare zamolvite slovo) is a 1981 Soviet film directed by Eldar Ryazanov. Film shot in the style of historical tragicomedy.
A hussars regiment fumes to the provincial town of Gubernsk for summer maneuvers. Frivolous life outside the barracks, away from the metropolitan authorities, evening shows in the theater, billiard, card game, flirting with the ladies - this is the hussars' lives in the provincial town. But soon the regiment gets into trouble. From St. Petersburg, on the personal orders of the emperor, with a special mission, arrives count Merzlyaev.
Some officers of the regiment are suspected of "free-thinking" and of conspiring against the government. Merzlyaev offers these officers a test: they must shoot a rebel, thus demonstrating their loyalty to the emperor. Merzlyaev's cunning plan is that the "execution by shooting" is false: the cartridges are blank, and the role of "the condemned conspirator" will be played by a stranger. If the officers refuse to shoot - they face the military court and penal servitude.
On the role of the "conspirator" Merzlyaev hires Bubentsov, an actor who is in jail for a stupid carelessness. Merzlyaev's "play" goes perfectly, but suddenly it is interfered by human dignity. Cornet Alexei Pletnev (one of the officers who should play the role of the executioners), let the "rebel" Bubentsov go free. And it's starting to turn tragic ...
Trying to save his plan and his reputation, count Merzlyaev is ready to take any action, to create any abomination. But he is unable to defeat love and generosity of honest people...
The music for the film was written by a prominent Soviet composer Andrei Petrov. This composer repeatedly worked with Eldar Ryazanov. The songs in the film were written on poems of famous poets of different times: Denis Davydov, Pyotr Vyazemsky, Mikhail Savoyarov, Marina Tsvetaeva, Mikhail Arkadyevich Svetlov. Later, a disc was released, which was recorded with the participation of the USSR State Committee for Cinematography Orchestra (conductor Sergei Skripka) and State Wind Orchestra of the RSFSR.
The film proved to be an ordeal for Eldar Ryazanov. The screenplay was written in the summer and autumn of 1978. The State Committee for Cinematography of the USSR did not accept the script, and Eldar Ryazanov brought it to Central Television of the USSR. After a long bureaucratic process the script was adopted into production by Studio Ekran. In autumn 1979 the movie was put into production in the cinematic studio Mosfilm. But soon came the decision that stunned Ryazanov - to shut down the film. In December 1979, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan and the Soviet censors saw the script of the film as a kind of "sedition". Initially, according to the creators, Merzlyaev was a Gendarme officer, but then, at the insistence of the TV authorities, any mention of that Russian "law enforcement agency" should be excluded from the screenplay. Screenplay authors Ryazanov and Gorin were surprised - "Soviet power" that toppled down "damned tsarism" in 1917, in 1979 struggled to protect one of the most hideous manifestations of "tsar's power" - "political police" represented in the movie by Gendarmes. Despite all his attempts to change the decision of TV authorities, Ryazanov could not do anything.
Then Ryazanov and Gorin made a decision to rewrite the script. The general meaning of the film was immediately distorted, the story developed numerous inconsistencies and logical absurdities. Merzlyaev became an indistinct official with special assignments. To emphasize his involvement in the secret services, he was awarded the rank of Actual Privy Councilor. Such rank, equal to that of the general, in the Russian Empire, could be held only by high-ranking officials of the ministerial level. It looked unlikely that an official of such rank would personally come to a provincial town and get engaged in petty intrigues.
Total control and censorship continued in the course of the filming. In his autobiography Ryazanov tells of flagrant cases of such intervention. For example, in one of the humorous episodes, actor Bubentsov (played by Yevgeny Leonov) was supposed to quote the famous poem by Lermontov: "Farewell, unwashed Russia!". TV bosses noticed the lines: "... And you, blue uniforms, and you, people faithful to them" and considered them as "seditious" hints at the Gendarmes. They ordered to replace the poem. Enraged Ryazanov shouted in the face of the censors, that this Lermontov's poem is not an illegal literature and is learned by heart in every Soviet school. In vain. In the final version the actor Bubentsov quoted Pushkin's poem: "I sit behind bars in a damp prison ..."
Ryazanov, wrote in his book: Working over the film "Say a Word for the Poor Hussar" was not only a test for professionalism, it was a test for integrity, honesty and generosity. The content of the movie corresponded to our lives, to our work. The provocations, intrigues, infamies, that were described in our scenario, we had tested on ourselves while shooting the movie. Every scene that was planned to be shot tomorrow, as a rule, was remodel, refined, and appended the day before, which also increased the chaos and confusion on the film set. Perhaps "Say a Word for the Poor Hussar" was my most difficult work. Blows rained down on from all sides, from within and without.