Issue 60 (2018)

Aleksandr Khant: How Viktor ‘The Garlic’ Took Alexei ‘The Stud’ to the Nursing Home (Kak Vit’ka Chesnok vez Lekhu Shtyria v dom invalidov, 2017)

reviewed by Ksenia Konstantinova-Ragot© 2018

vitkaThe film with the long title How Viktor ‘The Garlic’ Took Alexei ‘The Stud’ to the Nursing Home is the first full-length film by the young Russian director Aleksandr Khant (real name Evseev, hailing from Khanty-Mansiisk). Freshly graduated from the State Film Institute (VGIK) in 2015, Khant immediately embarked on the film, which went on to receive the Grand Prix of the East of the West Competition in Karlovy Vary in July 2017, and then the main award of the IFF Window on Europe in Vyborg in August. Russian critics have called this film “the most vivid debut in recent Russian cinema” (Chuviliaev 2017).

The plot is made up of a classical tale for a road movie. Vitka is a young gopnik—those young men and women from poor families of lower-class suburban areas, who are united by a subculture and characterised by a low level of education and moral values, a pseudo-criminal language and behaviour. Vitka lives with his wife and son in a small Russian town. He works in a recycling factory, dreams of leaving his wife for a younger girl (he has an affair), and drinks a lot. When he discovers that his father, Lekha, who put him into an orphanage after his mother’s murder, is physically disabled, he decides to put the father into a nursing home so that he can then move into the father’s apartment with his girl. To this end, he loads Lekha into a small transit van and hits the road, since the nearest available place in a nursing home is hundreds of miles away. During this journey Vitka faces up to his father’s criminal past and confronts a whole set of new values, eventually leaving the spectator challenged by the moral choice he has to make. 

Entirely in the tradition of the road movie, the film shows a journey of self-discovery as Vitka, who knows no moral values (adultery, drinking, living on borrowed money, making a profit from his father’s disability) does all the “wrong” things to begin with, but after a long journey realizes that there are choices in life. Whilst the filmmaker leaves open whether Vitka returns to pick up his father or not—a fine directorial decision in line with the genre—Khant clearly signals that the process of confronting the past and gaining new experiences has started.

vitkaVitka may be a victim of bad parenting, and his reaction may be an act of rebellion: he is a streetwise orphan who has learnt to fend for himself and ensure he gets a good share of life. But Lekha is also a victim, drugged into a vegetable existence following his physical paralysis and need of care. The film makes a comment on the lack of nursing home provisions for the disabled, whilst there is also no home care. More importantly, Lekha is a criminal who has been cheated by his gangster friends and fends back. There is a sense that, unless the individual looks after himself, nobody else will. And without a set of rigid moral values neither Vitka nor Lekha will find happiness. This theme runs as a sideline, through a number of vignettes that make fun of how things go wrong when the wrong moral choice is made. This approach ties in well with the road movie and right or wrong turns of the road.

The director underlines that the trend of Russian artists turning to the history of the 1990s is quite in vogue today, but compared to the majority of films about the 90s, Khant does not aim to show the despair and the remoteness of the provinces. He chooses bright colors, such as red, green and yellow, to show the irony of the situation. “We were using wide-angle lenses for close-ups to deform the proportion of the image and the faces of the heroes to show the oddity of the situation,” says Khant (2017).

vitkaKhant’s talent began to emerge during his coursework with At the Opera (V opere, 2011) and Dinner (Uzhin, 2012), which won awards at VGIK’s international student film festival. Before graduating from the workshop of Karen Shakhnazarov, Khant had trained as Director of Photography with Sergei Astakhov, who worked with Aleksei Balabanov. Critics have n noted an influence here on Khant, but they remark that, in spite of certain direct citations, the film’s style remains unified and quite unique (Chuviliaev 2017). His films were noticed by producer Fedor Popov, who is the founder of the production studio VGIK-Debut, set up in 2011 to support graduates of the Film Institute in their first full-length project, with the overall aim to boost young Russian cinema.

VGIK-Debut is located within the largest Russian film studio, Mosfilm. Every year they chose the best graduates from the Institute and present several projects for financial support to the Ministry of Culture. Khant’s film project was entrusted with the task of turning the award-winning screenplay by fellow student Aleksei Borodachev into a feature film. The director says that he was not only totally captivated by the dramatic structure of the story, which depicted a complex attitude vis-à-vis the theme of paternity. Indeed, Khant, like the character Vitka, grew up without a father (Khant and Popov 2017).

In the case of How Viktor… the promotional work was successful and explains the popularity that the film garnered in Russia, including a re-release in April 2018, as well as the interest from abroad.

Ksenia Konstantinova-Ragot,
Université Paris VIII Saint-Denis-Vincennes

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Works Cited

Chuviliaev, Ivan. 2017. “Zapakh patsana.” 9 August

Khant, Aleksandr. 2017. [“Meeting with the Director”], TNT Nizhnevartovsk 2 March.

Popov, Fedor and Khant, Aleksandr. 2017. Interview on Radio Kultura, 26 September  


How Viktor ‘The Garlic’ Took Alexei ‘The Stud’ to the Nursing Home (Russia, 2017)
90 minutes, color
Director: Aleksandr Khant
Script: Aleksei Borodachev
DoP: Daniil Fomichev
Production Design: Asya Davydova, Ekaterina Rostotskaia
Cast: Aleksei Serebriakov, Evgenii Tkachuk, Alina Nasibullina, Ol’ga Lapshina, Georgii Kudrenko, Roman Shaliapin
Producers: Fedor Popov, Vladimir Malyshev
Production: VGIK-Debut

Aleksandr Khant: How Viktor ‘The Garlic’ Took Alexei ‘The Stud’ to the Nursing Home (Kak Vit’ka Chesnok vez Lekhu Shtyria v dom invalidov, 2017)

reviewed by Ksenia Konstantinova-Ragot© 2018

Updated: 2018