Anna Lawton

... One of the first films that raised the issue of Moscow as a heartless city, and that became a great success, was Limita (1994), by Denis Yevstigneyev. He made his debut as a director with this film, after distinguishing himself as a cinematographer. The title is better left in the original, as it denotes those vagrant laborers (limitchiki) who in the old days came to the urban centers for seasonal work, and were housed in barracks beyond the city limits. Today, the term has the special flavor of a time past. The protagonists of the story, Ivan (Vladimir Mashkov) and Misha (Yevgeny Mironov), arrived in Moscow in the late 1970s from Pyatigorsk. They managed to survive through the loopholes of the system, and then got well established in the computer business as soon as the new wave of opportunities made it possible. Now thirty-something, they are riding the high tide. Ivan is an independent code-breaker, Misha is a program specialist with a financial institution. Together with their female companion (Kristina Orbakayte), they live the privileged life of the high-tech elite. But in the big city, big money means big trouble. Ivan gets a lucrative order from a client associated with the mob: he must crack a disk that Misha has encoded for his company. When Ivan realizes the nature of the job and tries to back out and save himself and his friend, he is already enmeshed in a thriller in which, ultimately, Misha comes to his death.

Black-and-white clips from the limita times contrast with the slick interiors of Ivan's apartment, the high-tech décor, his designer clothes and stylish clients. The question in the end seems to be whether the new wealth is worth the loss of innocence – and of lives. Yevstigneyev has a practical answer. Taking about the new Russians, he said: "Civilized or uncivilized, they are the first people in the country who are making decisions about their life for themselves. They may be egotistical, concerned only about themselves or those close to them, but for me that is better than what we had before, when people talked about the "happiness of millions"." Notwithstanding the underlying cynicism, or just because of it, the movie was very popular. ...