Issue 31 (2011)

Iaroslav Chevazhevskii: Happy End (Schastlivyi konets, 2010)

reviewed by Christine Engel © 2011

happyendThere are films that hardly deserve deeper thought. Happy End, [1] directed by Iaroslav Chevazhevskii, is one of them. The film’s formula is simple: one takes a body part, separates it from its owner, gives it human form and allows it to live its own life in Petersburg. Every Russian viewer will immediately make the essential link to Nikolai Gogol’, remembering the story “The Nose”(Nos), and perhaps hope that the film makes something of this association. Expectations of piquancy are further stoked by the fact that the body part which acquires its own life is the owner’s male member. Unfortunately, the film does not take up any of these challenges. Instead, it is a harmless, moralizing comedy, a modern fairy tale whose ending is already betrayed in the title.

happyendThe penis is annoyed by the promiscuity and vacuity of his owner Pavel and, as a result, leaves him. He learns how to speak and behave in polite society, and spends most of his time reading in a library. Pavel cannot continue his career as a stripper without his member, and therefore is catapulted into the social underclass. His good, dog-loving heart, however, proves to be his salvation as it gives him the opportunity to meet a young, beautiful vet. Because the very polite penis has also fallen in love with the same women, it becomes clear to both that they can find happiness only by working together. Pavel’s redemption is complete, monogamy’s rightful place has been confirmed, and the road from riches to rags cut short and diverted into the vet’s comfortable flat in Petersburg’s old town.

happyendThe film’s pictorial language is dominated by riches and glamour. Even the police station where Pavel finds himself is located in the sophisticated environs of a classical town house. The first scenes take place in an up-market strip club and are continued in Pavel’s swanky flat; the camera laps up every feature of the two locations with the attention to detail of a department store catalogue. A similar voyeuristic exhibition of interiors, which actually contradicts the redemptive story of “money cannot buy you happiness”, is also evident in other films such as Gloss (Glianets, 2007, directed by Andrei Konchalovskii) and Tycoon (Oligarkh, 2002, directed by Pavel Lungin). Correspondingly, the city of St. Petersburg is also filmed as in a commercial for a travel agency. A cinematographic model has now developed for this type of production, as evident—for example—in the films Piter FM (2006, directed by Oksana Bychkova) and Heat (Zhara 2006, directed by Rezo Gigineishvili): Petersburg is a chic and swanky miniature Venice with roof gardens, white table cloths, sunshine and views of the canals.

happyendLooking at the career of director Chevazhevskii (born 1968), this style comes hardly surprising, because his origins are indeed in the advertising world. His debut film, Kuka (2007), won the audience award at Kinotavr above all because Chevazhevskii deployed his fundamental knowledge of advertising psychology: a child, in particular an abandoned girl, who takes a wide-eyed look at the world is always a ratings hit. Happy End employs a further psychological truism: dogs, too, are always crowd-pleasers. Consequently, dogs play an important role in the film in one way or other—rarely alone, normally in large groups: the vet’s flat is full of dogs (of whom the penis is afraid) and Pavel, as part of his redemption, dedicates himself to stray dogs.

One of the film’s saving graces is the acting duo of Iurii Kolokol’nikov as the penis and Pavel Derevianko as his owner. The simple fact that Kolokol’nikov is two heads larger than Derevianko cannot fail to create a comic effect. Kolokol’nikov successfully depicts the anthropomorphized penis, above all through a convincing variation of physical postures. However, the part of the penis is entirely different to that of Gogol’’s nose: while the nose is a cheeky, confident body part, the penis is an extremely delicate ingénue—the tiniest puppy, a sharp look or the smallest amount of stress cause him literally to shrink into himself. He is so fragile that it is difficult to understand why all the women bumping into him almost hypnotically fall for him—behind this, can one see the wishful thinking of the male initiators of the project and the probably unavoidable laddish humor at the planning meetings?

Christine Engel

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1] The film's title plays upon the cinematic term of the happy ending (kheppi-end in Russian), where "konets" here also refers to the male member, which features in the film's plot. We have therefore chosen the translation "happy end"—where "end" stands for penis, rather than the term "happy ending."


Works Cited

“Schastlivyi konets,” Kino-Teatr

Lidiia Maslova: Chlenorazdel’naia komediia. Pavel Derevianko i Iurii Kolokol’nikov v “Schastlivom kontse,” Kommersant, 11 January 2010.  

Happy End, Russia, 2010
97 minutes, color
Director: Iaroslav Chevazhevskii
Screenplay: Iaroslav Chevazhevskii
Director of Photography: Viktor Amati
Composer: Vladimir Saiko
Producers: Sergei Daielian, Aram Movsesian, Iurii Kolokol’nikov et al.
Production Studio: Pushkin Pictures
Cast: Pavel Derevianko, Iurii Kolokol’nikov, Anna Taratorkina et al.

Iaroslav Chevazhevskii: Happy End (Schastlivyi konets, 2010)

reviewed by Christine Engel © 2011

Updated: 12 Jan 11