“I am Twenty” by Marlen Khutsiev. The Manifest of the Great Generation
Legendary Marlen Khutsiev was born in 1925 in Tbilisi. His father was one of the victims of Stalin’s repressions of 1937. Khutziev’s big career started after the death of Stalin himself.
He had become a person who gave a voice to the generation of “thaw period” in his movies turning his camera towards people. The director of “Spring on Zarechnaya Street” (orig. “Vesna na Zarechnoy ulitse”) demonstrated his talent in such an honest and non-Soviet, as people think today, movies as “Ilyich’s Gate” (“I am twenty” is a title of its censored version) and “July Rain” (had a limited release).
Today we would like to talk about the movie “I am twenty”.
The original title of “Ilyich’s Gate” points to the location where the action takes place – the area of Rogozhskaya Gate (in 1923-1994 it had been named after V.I. Lenin – Ilyich’s Gate). The title of the released version “I am twenty” speaks of the age of the movie main characters. It shows us the transition of the young men into their adult life without specifying the exact time period.
Firstly we see a Red Guard watch of three soldiers who symbolically turn into three young men from 1960s walking down the streets of Moscow. Then we see the main character Sergei Zhuravlev (Valentin Popov), a soldier who goes home after his army retirement. It is the time when his free and peaceful life starts.
Sergei lives in the area of Ilyich’s Gate with his Mom and sister. His father died during the War (WWII).
Sergei’s relatives and friends Slava (Stanislav Lyubshin) and Kolya (Nikolay Gubenko) meet him.
Slava is a young husband and father who cannot get used to his new life. He is still eager to fool around, have fun, and dance, but his wife Lyusya is constantly reminding him of his new responsibilities.
Kolya seems to be an eternal optimist, merry-maker, and ladies’ man. But once his boss asks him to become a snitch. It becomes a turning point for him. Kolya rebuffs an offer and we begin to see him as a man who possesses a strong moral fiber. His behavior, his life style changes completely.
Sergei is a character who changes and forms throughout the movie. He is searching for his way he will not be ashamed of in future.
He falls in love with Anya (Marianna Vertinskaya) – a gilded youth representative. They visit The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and poetic evenings at The Polytechnic Museum where they listen to such legends of the 1960s as Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, Rimma Kazakova, Robert Rozhdestvensky, Bella Akhmadulina, and Bulat Okudzhava.
At one of the parties together with Anya’s friends, the gilded youth, cinephiles can see young Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky, who later became legendary fillmakers.
The inner world of Sergei becomes more complex as well as his search for his own way.
Why to watch
Ilyich’s Gate is that rare movie which speaks about all of us. It is the movie-question with no definite answer.
Who am I? What do I live for? What is it to do the right thing?
All these basic questions form a person as an individual. They are very urgent for that period of time of turning from irresponsible young men into mature adults with the necessity to make choices.
One more urgent question for people of 1960s in the USSR is how to live in peace.
The movie by Khutsiev catches his characters at the moment these questions appear in his characters’ thoughts. Peaceful and free life of the “thaw” period generation of Moscow children of the War with jazz, jokes, parties and dances in the streets becomes not everything but only a moment separating careless youth and adulthood. Then one has to make the most important decisions understanding their consequences.
Suddenly it turns out that there is nobody around to help with that; nobody knows how to live in the right way and with dignity. Most of the fathers had died during the War, others had fought too much and they don’t want their children to fight as children should stay children.
But these children sooner or later should start living an adult life, work, and start families. And what they see is that the world is still full of injustice, meanness, and betrayal. There is less time and cause for partying. They start seeing fear and protective reaction in the jokes and wit.
The main character is looking for his own guide and answers to his questions. The only hero and authority for him is his father who died during the War and cannot direct him through the period of getting older, cannot suggest how to live a life with dignity and pride as he himself went off to war being very young.
Ilyich’s Gate is probably one of the most important movies of the 1960s as it possesses the code of the generation and depicts the process of its formation.
This is the generation which has to make important decision without senior authorities but forced to follow the highest standards having been set up by their parents left to fight for their country. The consequence of such beliefs was total absence of fear and readiness to suffer for the truth as their parents sacrificed their lives for their children’s freedom. A human becomes more important than the government what speaks loudly about social revolution which is revealed in dissident movement and the golden age of humanistic culture.
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