Issue 71 (2021)

Zhora Kryzhovnikov: Ice 2 (Led 2, 2020)

reviewed by Olga Mukhortova © 2021

ice 2Ice 2 by Zhora Kryzhovnikov was released on 14 February 2020. One might expect a film aimed at the Valentine’s Day box office to be a romcom, based on the first Ice film (2017, dir. Oleg Trofim), a sports melodrama that capitalized greatly ($29.5 million) on the Russian admiration for hockey and figure skating. However, the film fulfills neither the usual expectations of a sports sequel audience nor the hopes for a romantic comedy on Valentine’s Day night. The film is a mixture of drama, musical film, and procedural drama, heavily relying on the current and previous popularity of these genres in Russo-Soviet cinema.

The film proposes a story of fatherly love while being a troubled single parent after the mother sacrificed her life for their daughter. The main characters, Nadezhda (Hope) and Aleksandr (Protector), get married in the first few minutes of the film. At the time, Nadezhda knows that a previous sports-related trauma has brought complications and that she could die giving birth to her daughter. Nadezhda decides to sacrifice her life for her daughter and never tells her husband about the issue. After Nadezhda’s death, Aleksandr raises his daughter, named Nadia after her mother, with the help of Nadezhda’s former trainer, Irina. Aleksandr works as an Uber driver, sacrificing his successful career as a leading hockey player for his daughter. Aleksandr forbids his daughter to skate and never tells her about Nadezhda’s sports victories. Halfway through, the film turns into a procedural drama because Irina sues Aleksandr for full custody over his daughter; as a result, the father’s temper becomes more hysterical. However, this drama ends well: Irina and Aleksandr decide to make up and agree to raise the child in harmony.

ice 2Ice 2 enjoyed almost the same box office success as its predecessor, earning $22.3 million. In constructing his success, Kryzhovnikov heavily uses cultural allusions exhibiting his knowledge of the current generation, who were born in the late Soviet years, and, of course, his experience with Russian mass culture, demonstrated in his previous films, such as Kiss Them All (Gor'ko 1, 2013; Gor’ko 2, 2014), and The Best Day (Samyi luchschii den', 2015). With musical performances, the director brings the energy of Mark Zakharov’s stage musical Juno and Avos (1981), Alla Pugacheva’s The Lake of Hope (Ozero nadezhdy, 2001), Ivanushki International’s Poplar Fuzz (Topolinyi pukh, 1999), Iurii Entin and Evgenii Krylarov’s Beautiful Future (1985), creating waves of nostalgia that open the door to intense emotions splashed out onto the screen. The songs define the cinematic characters as well as the film’s plot and personal tragedies. The film starts with the closing operatic aria from Juno and Avos, in which the main character dies while his fiancée waits for him for the next 35 years. However, Kryzhovnikov offers this text to the person leading the wedding ceremony of Nadezhda and Aleksandr at the Registry Office. The music forebodes their tragedy, and likewise the camerawork centered on the colorful Soviet-style glass mosaics that decorate the foyer prepare the audience for an unhappy ending.

ice 2Nadezhda’s death comes within several minutes and turns Aleksandr into a single parent. This plot twist opens multiple opportunities to redefine gender norms. The director uses this film device to talk about the new gender models and rewrite the cultural norm of masculinity. He presents a male character who takes care of his daughter alone, who is emotional and caring, who deals with everyday obstacles while being emotionally ruined after a partner’s death. Aleksandr does not appear as a romanticized super-masculine hero but rather as a parent who reads instructions on preparing baby formula and deals with his daughter’s cold. With this everyday care and sincere fatherly emotions, the director presents a new man defined through his parenthood, not through work or sports career achievements. The main character is a father, first of all, and everything else is much less important. The substantial symbolic capital of Aleksandr Petrov’s stardom helps to establish this new masculine norm tremendously. He appears in film scenes and shots usually used by mass culture and even advertising campaigns to depict happy motherhood and promote children’s goods. The actor establishes these visuals as the new norm of happy fatherhood. 

ice 2Moreover, picturing everyday care for the daughter by a male character on screen, the director puts this role first, over the successful sports career, highlighting the importance of and his respect for fatherhood. On the screen, caring for children is the main character's essential activity, which validates many women’s lives off-screen. Speaking of this important life value, Kryzhovnikov also brings the song Poplar Fuzz by Ivanushki International with their smiles and sunny summer days to the film's snowy, cold weather and nearly eternal Baikal ice. Aleksandr’s song sounds like an internal monologue and a lullaby appearing in parallel with the sunshine created through lighting while the snow reminds us of poplar fluff. The generation of Ivanushki has grown up and become happy parents, as the director suggests, because “in this life, there is no such a thing as ‘little’ happiness.”

ice 2However, the ideal happy fatherhood is not a real thing, and the director demonstrates this even better as he introduces another person who cares about Aleksandr’s daughter. Nadezhda’s former trainer, Irina, with her infinite energy, personal strength, and the rejection of all personal boundaries reminds us of all the grandmothers who worked throughout their lives and experienced all the ups and downs of Soviet and post-Soviet changes. With this figure, the director validates women in their 50s and 60s and pays enormous respect to everyone who sees themselves in Alla Pugacheva’s songs. The Lake of Hope sounds like a hymn to all grandmothers with their eternal love: “tell me how to get away from my love.” Resolving the conflict between the father and “the grandmother,” the director also insists that regular childcare should be done not just by parents but rather by an extended family, too, as they and their life experience are also necessary for a child. 

Visualizing new masculinity and happy fatherhood, the director insists that “all happy families look alike.” He proves it with the final shots, in which many film crew members appear in family photos with their children, revealing their personal lives and validating the film’s atmosphere of sincerity. 

Olga Mukhortova
Defense Language Institute, Monterey

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Ice 2, Russia, 2020
Color, 132 mins
Director: Zhora Kryzhovnikov
Script: Aleksandr Zolotarev, Zhora Kryzhovnikov,
Camera: Ivan Lebedev
Choreography: Elena Maslennikova
Production Design: Nina Vasenina
Editing: Egor Tarasenko, Aleksandr Pusyrev, Aleksandr Andrushchenko
Sound: Filipp Lamshin
Cast: Aleksandr Petrov, Aglaia Tarasova, Maria Aronova, Vitaliia Kornienko, Nadezhda Mikhalkova, Julia Khlynina, Sergei Lavygin,
Producers: Mikhail Vrubel, Aleksandr Andriushchenko, Fedor Bondarchuk

Zhora Kryzhovnikov: Ice 2 (Led 2, 2020)

reviewed by Olga Mukhortova © 2021

Updated: 2021