HISTORY LESSONS AND TALES

from Imaging Russia 2000: Film and Facts
2004
Anna M. Lawton

... A director of proven fame, Pyotr Todorovsky, returned to the screen with a film whose title suggests enthusiastic approval by cheering audiences, Encore Again! (1992). To a Russian, however, the title also suggests a grimmer picture – the well-known painting by Pavel Fedotov (1825-1852) of the same title. The painting shows an army officer lying on a sofa in a drab garrison room, having a small dog perform a trick over and over by giving him the "encore" command – a picture of pettiness and entrapment. Todorovsky's previous film, Intergirl (1989), was a blockbuster. The story of a hard-currency prostitute, who marries a Swedish businessman and is then consumed by nostalgia for her Russian motherland while living in the lap of luxury, was not critical of the prostitute but of the Soviet system. The same critique of a system that breeds moral prostitution underlies Todorovsky's Encore. The film's symbolism is often too obvious, and sometimes annoying. But taken as a well-crafted period soap opera, it shows Todorovsky's professional handling of the genre. Like another of his previous pictures, Wartime Romance (1984), Encore deals with the post-World War II period, an epoch that Todorovsky knew first as a young man on the front line, and later as a career officer in a dull, provincial town.

Encore is set in a garrison enclave on the Soviet border with Eastern Europe. In this isolated microcosm, the elation of victory is short-lived. Soon the atmosphere is poisoned with the nightmare of totalitarian rule, party regulations, repression, and denunciations. Lies penetrate all layers of social and private life, betrayal becomes a means of survival, and fear conditions everybody and everything. The characters moving on this shady background are well suited for the unfolding melodrama. The garrison commander (renowned stage actor Valentin Gaft), a war hero legendary for his courage, is now morally paralyzed and finally commits suicide. The commander's lover, Lyuba (Irina Rozanova), tired of his wavering, finds herself a young lieutenant (Yevgeny Mironov). But he, too, has no will of his own. He has been turned into a slave by an elusive despot and prefers to take a hardship post in Siberia rather than getting involved in a steady relationship with Lyuba, which may put him at risk politically. Although for many there is no way out of this kingdom of darkness, Lyuba in the end finds her path to salvation. Leaving behind the hellish enclave of the garrison, she sets out on a long road that cuts straight through a clean, vast, snowy plain. ...