Issue 74 (2021)

Roman Karimov: Inadequate People 2 (Neadekvatnye liudi 2, 2020)

reviewed by Eva Binder © 2021

Neadekvatnye Liudi 2“We’ll make it. We are strong. We are adequate people.” This dialogue line from the end of Roman Karimov’s feature film Inadequate People 2 functions as a direct reference point to the director’s widely praised debut film Inadequate People,which was released in 2010. The original feature ends with a kissing scene, in which the odd couple Vitalii and Kristina declare their love to each other by ironically acknowledging: “We are inadequate people, aren’t we?” By playfully posing the question of social adequacy, the original feature and its sequel, which premiered in Russia in December 2020, convey liberal middle-class values against the backdrop of Russia’s patriotic-conservative political scene. At the same time, the two films draw the viewers’ attention to the rift between the liberal and conservative poles, which has widened and deepened in the ten years between the films.

Neadekvatnye2Since his debut Roman Karimov, who was born in Ufa in 1984 and holds a diploma from the Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics,[1] has directed half a dozen films, which range from the rather experimental Into Smithereens (Vdrebezgi, 2011) to the entertaining comedy Have Fun, Vasya! (Guliai, Vasia!, 2017), which with a total of 1.1 million viewers in Russia has been Karimov’s biggest success at the box office so far. In all his films, Karimov demonstrates a noticeable orientation on US-American film genres and, at the same time, a proximity to art-house cinema. Russian critics rightly praise his comedies for their realistic, lively and witty dialogue. Despite a clear tendency toward light entertainment, Karimov’s films appear more sophisticated than pure genre cinema. By portraying contemporary urban life Karimov primarily addresses a rather educated audience located somewhere between the traditions and habitus of the Soviet intelligentsia and Western or, perhaps more exactly, US-American urban middle-class values.

Neadekvatnye2As can be concluded from interviews, Karimov pursues and proclaims notions of individual freedom and self-realization: “Happiness is about finding what you like and standing up for it to the end, going towards your goal” (Govzman 2021). In this way he contrasts self-realization through hard work and achievement to the “patriarchal society under Putin” and the nepotism that has emerged under his rule: “The richest heiress will not experience the thrill of moving into a new mansion experienced by those who have earned their flat by themselves” (Govzman 2021). Exactly the same is true for Kristina, the main character of Inadequate People 2.

Neadekvatnye2Karimov’s sequel relies on the same characters as the original film, but ten years later the focus is no longer on Vitalii but on the character of Kristina and her personal crisis. Inadequate People was centered on the good-looking but coy and sensible Vitalii (Il’ia Liubimov), a man in his thirties who had moved from the provincial town of Serpukhov to Moscow in order to cope with his past. His inability to control his temper had led to his girlfriend’s death in a car accident. In order to come to terms with this traumatic experience, he resorts to the help of his school friend Pavel (Evgenii Tsyganov), a business-minded and charismatic psychologist, who will later also coach the seventeen-year-old Kristina, a schoolgirl living next door to Vitalii. Kristina is not only endowed with wit and a ready tongue, but also with a will strong enough to get the man she falls in love with, despite the difference in age.

Neadekvatnye2The sequel finds the romantic couple of the original film in affluent living conditions. Vitalii works as an architect, while Kristina has not found her place in life yet. She is a housewife who takes care of the household as if time had thrown the couple back to the American 1950s, writes a short diary entry each morning (utrennie stranichki), and meets with friends who advise her to have a child. Unwilling or unable to give her husband the domestic warmth and coziness he longs for and due to а lack of self-determination, she decides to break out of this life.

The phases she goes through take her from failure to failure. She is not admitted to university and starts a hopeless love affair with a cheeky, spoiled son of the nouveau riche (for which the Russian language knows the jargon expression mazhor as well as the term “golden youth”). After ending the affair, she becomes destitute and finds shelter in the overcrowded quartiers of migrant workers. But since she is a smart and strong girl, she finally makes a career, starting as a kitchen worker in a fast-food restaurant and ending as the co-creator of a dating app in an ultra-hip IT company. To make her happiness complete, Kristina tries to get her husband Vitalii back, but ultimately loses him to Sonia, a young woman willing to fulfil his wish to have children and provide the domestic warmth he desires. In return, however, Kristina gains something much more important. She finds her place in the world by following her vocation, and thus finally becomes an “adequate person”. The final scene shows her entertaining a jolly group of migrants around the salesman Iskhan, to whom, despite his obvious social inadequacy, she is bond in friendship.

Neadekvatnye2Although, at first glance, the film’s plot may resemble a trivial mixture of fairy tale and Bildungsroman with a practical lesson on how to cope with a personal crisis, Russian critics (cf. Bogdanov 2020) and the director himself stress the complexity of the sequel: “I have made my best film—it’s a very complex film indeed” (Govzman 2021). For Karimov himself, this complexity is closely connected to his own biography and sudden success at the age of 26, which made him part of the Moscow “golden youth”. Kristina, therefore, serves as a kind of alter-ego to the director: “Kristina experiences the whole spectrum of relationships that I experienced during this time: the golden youth, the partying, the professional field and also the working or lower classes” (Govzman 2021).

On a formal and conceptual level the sequel gains complexity by techniques of fragmentation. Whereas the character types and the ironic treatment of psychoanalysis (cf. Anisimova 2011) in the original film are reminiscent of US-American romcom, the sequel is less cohesive and more fragmentary in narrative as well as generic terms. In contrast to the linear narrative in Karimov’s debut film, the plot of the sequel is broken up in flashbacks, “cracking like a mirror into multiple fragments,” as Russian critic Vadim Bogdanov (2020) notes. Besides jumping back and forward in time, Karimov shifts the narrative perspectives, most elaborately in a key scene of the film, set in a pub, which recurs three more times. Thereby the perspective shifts from authorial to three different personal narrative perspectives, each time revealing another fragment of the entangled relationship of love and friendship between the four main characters, Kristina, Vitalii, Sonia, and the psychologist Pavel.

Neadekvatnye2In and through the scene in the pub Karimov conveys his understanding of adequacy. Whereas the Russian phrase “inadequate people” suggests that adequacy is a trait of a person’s character, Karimov’s notion of adequacy relies on interpersonal relations of love and friendship. Thereby, the question of being adequate or not depends on the individual situation and the individual people involved, and not on exterior norms and expectations imposed by society. Thus, it is a matter of individual choice and preference and not a matter of the prevailing gender roles in (Russian) society that make Vitalii and Sonia a perfect match, while Kristina and Pavel choose individual freedom. By attaining personal strength and independence, Kristina becomes as “adequate” as the family couple.

From a Western perspective, Karimov’s moral position may appear neither provocative nor particularly striking. But in the light of Russian mainstream media, which propagate conservative values and perpetuate gender imbalance, Karimov’s modest voice can be seen as highly relevant and even courageous. And it gains even more social weight in the face of the prevailing domestic violence which has been a legislative and social issue in Russia for years. It is particularly against this backdrop that viewers in Russia and abroad might welcome Karimov’s moral directness and overhear the didactic tones that resonate particularly in the sentimental, glossy tale of migrant workers as the better people.

Eva Binder
University of Innsbruck, Austria


Notes

1] For more detailed biographical information about Roman Karimov see Kino-Teatr.

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Works Cited

Anisimova, Irina. 2011. “Roman Karimov: Inadequate People (Neadekvatnye liudi, 2010)”. KinoKultura 33.

Bogdanov, Vadim. 2020. “Retsenziia na fil’m Romana Karimova ‘Neadekvatnye liudi 2’.” Intermedia, 8 December.

Govzman, Marina-Maiia. 2021. “My – patriarkhal’noe obshchestvo, zhivushchee pri Putine”. Interview with Roman Karimov. 66.RU, 3 February.


Inadequate People 2, Russia, 2020
Color, 118 minutes
Director: Roman Karimov
Script: Roman Karimov, Iana Lebedeva
Cinematography: Anton Zhabin
Music: Mikhail Chertishchev
Cast: Ingrid Olerinskaia (Kristina), Il’ia Liubimov (Vitalii), Evgenii Tsyganov (Pavel), Mariia Goriacheva (Sonia), Nikita Sanaev (Artem), Roman Khan (Iskhan)
Producers: Sergei Torchilin, Andrei Shishkanov, Roman Karimov, Konstantin Elkin, Iana Lebedeva, Roman Borisevich, Sergei Kulikov, Aleksandr Kalushkin
Production: Plan 9, Triofilm

Roman Karimov: Inadequate People 2 (Neadekvatnye liudi 2, 2020)

reviewed by Eva Binder © 2021

Updated: 2021