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Office Romance (film)

Office Romance (Служебный Роман, ) is a Soviet comedy film directed by Eldar Ryazanov. It was filmed at Mosfilm and released in 1977. The film's plot is based on the stageplay "Co-workers" (Сослуживцы, ) written by Eldar Ryazanov and Emil Braginsky, and tells the story of Ludmila Kalugina, a general manager of a statistical bureau, and her subordinate, economist Anatoly Novoseltsev, who come from mutual aversion to love.

Office Romance was the leader of Soviet film distribution in 1978 and still enjoys wide popularity in former Soviet republics.

Both a romantic drama and a screwball comedy, the film is noted for its display of Moscow sceneries, and for its comical presentation of everyday life and customs of Soviet society during the Era of Stagnation.

Synopsis

The action takes place in Moscow in 1976. Anatoly Yefremovich Novoseltsev, a clumsy single father of two sons, works at a statistical bureau. His boss is a strict unmarried woman, Ludmila Prokofievna Kalugina, nicknamed "our en:frump" by her subordinates. She has some self-confidence problems, hidden behind her gloomy humorless demeanor and plain old-fashioned look. Novoseltsev’s colleagues consider him as a smart and experienced worker. He dreams about promotion and a raise that would help him provide for his children, but he is too timid to talk to his boss about it. His former classmate and old friend, Yuri Grigorievich Samokhvalov, recently appointed assistant manager of the institution, suggests appointing Novoseltsev as a head of the light industry department, but Kalugina rejects it believing that Novoseltsev is not good enough for the position. Then, following Samokhvalov's advice, Novoseltsev tries, rather unwillingly, to flirt lightly with "the Frump" at a party in Samokhvalov's apartment in order to "get into contact" with her. Feeling extremely uneasy he tries in vain to make a conversation with her talking about random things such as mushrooms and poetry, shows off his singing and dancing abilities (in a very comical way), but Kalugina gets annoyed and severely criticizes all his attempts to impress her. Eventually Novoseltsev becomes frustrated, flares up and tells Kalugina right in her face that he considers her dry, inhuman and heartless. Next morning embarrassed Novoseltsev comes to her office to apologize. Kalugina starts reprimanding him but then all of a sudden bursts into tears, revealing that his yesterday accusations hurt her. Novoseltsev is impressed and touched by discovering a delicate side of his boss's personality. They have a heart-to-heart conversation in which Ludmila tells him about her lonely joyless life. From here on they start getting closer and soon fall in love with each other. It transforms both of them. For instance, Kalugina, having thrown off a "protective mask" of a hard-hearted woman, becomes more aware of her femininity and surprises everyone with her new elegant clothes and charming look.

As the relationship between Anatoly and Ludmila evolves, full of comical situations and repartees, a drama unfolds between Olga Ryzhova and Yuri Samokhvalov who were dating many years ago at a university. Now both of them have families but Olga's romantic feelings are revived after meeting Samokhvalov at the office. However, he treats her just like a friend. She begins to write him love letters, which she passes to him through Verochka, an energetic and overly curious secretary. She accidentally finds one of the letters on Samokhvalov's desk, reads it and tells about what she found out to her colleague, and thus the whole staff of the bureau starts gossiping about Olga's "immoral behavior". Moreover, Samokhvalov, tired of the wave of love letters, tells about the situation to the meddlesome Shura, a local labor union committee activist and the biggest talebearer of the institution. He gives her the letters and asks her to sort out the problem at the session of the committee. Kalugina learns about it, reproaches Samokhvalov and convinces him to solve the problem individually.

Novoseltsev, Ryzhova's good friend, also learns about Samokhvalov's actions, gets angry and slaps him in the face in front of Kalugina, to which Samokhvalov promises to hit back, but in another way. So when he gets to know that Kalugina and Novoseltsev have begun a love affair, he discloses Novoseltsev's initial "plan" to Kalugina. She is shocked and wants to give up Novoseltsev. She calls him up to her office, tells him about her decision to appoint him as head of the light industry department and to end their relationship, because she knows that he started courting her merely on purpose to get the appointment. Novoseltsev feels ashamed and admits that it was indeed started purely for mercenary reasons, but insists that he has grown to love her. Kalugina brushes him off. In his turn he rejects the appointment and tenders his resignation. Kalugina refuses to dismiss Novoseltsev to spite him. They have a fiery argument which results in a noisy scuffle right in the office. Everything ends up as Novoseltsev, trying to escape from furious Ludmila, runs out of the building, jumps on a back seat of a car (that turns out to be Kalugina's service vehicle with a personal chauffeur), she follows him and showers blows and curses upon him, but Novoseltsev manages to soothe her, and they are seen hugging and kissing as the car goes down the road. A subtitle suggests that already in 9 months there will be three boys in Novoseltsev's family, i.e. Anatoly and Ludmila will later have a mutual son.

Ryzhova, broken-hearted and humiliated, asks Samokhvalov to return the letters to her and gets back to her normal life.

Casting and production

  • Alisa Freindlich was director's primary choice for the role of Kalugina. Eldar Ryazanov invented the character having in mind Freindlich as the one to portray it. Moreover, he started working on the screenplay seriously only after securing consent of all the actors he wanted to cast to participate in the film. It was a rare case in Soviet cinema when a director would be allowed to cast all actors of his own choice without preliminary screen-tests and approval of the Art Council. Ryazanov worried that Freindlich would not be able to come to Moscow for shooting of the film because of stage performances and rehearsals she was busy with in her native Leningrad. So he assured both the actress and her management that she would be allowed to go to Leningrad on the first demand. It came out that she was compelled to leave for the theater often and thus travel between Moscow and Leningrad all the time.
  • In order to create genuine image of a frumpy boss Ryazanov and Friendlich searched through all wardrobes of the studio for baggy, old-fashioned clothes. Cameraman Vladimir Nakhabtsev brought to the studio the old thick-frammed glasses that belonged to his father - they helped to complete the image.
  • Ryazanov took some risk casting Andrey Myagkov for the second time for the role of a clumsy intellectual, similar to this in 1975 hit "Irony of Fate". Not everyone agreed with the director's decision upon casting. Oleg Basilashvili didn't like the role of the "villain" Samokhvalov. Like Freindlich, he had to travel frequently between Moscow and Leningrad due to obligations on the Leningrad stage, and he believed that his worn-out look would be ideal to portray an unkempt and humble Novoseltsev. Later, during the shooting he admitted that the director's choice was right. But it was a hard task for make-up artists to make a glossy complacent Samokhvalov out of the exhausted Basilashvili, and, on the contrary, a sloppy bachelor Novoseltsev out of the refined Myagkov.
  • One of few roles for which screen-tests were taken, was the role of activist Shura. Actress Ludmila Ivanova, who in real life was a head of local labor union committee at the Sovremennik Theater, got into the role quickly and was the most convincing when she shouted out: "Comrades, donate 50 copecks!"

Audience reaction, critical reception and awards

Office Romance was a Soviet hit movie in 1978 having 58.4 million viewers, and still remains one of the most popular Soviet-era films in Russia and other former Soviet republics. Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov were named Best Actors of the year by readers of Soviet Screen Magazine (Советский Экран, Sovetsky Ekran).

The film received general approval from critics; there was not one negative review of the film. High artistical level, skills and organic collaboration of director and actors were noted, as well as vivid portrayal of Moscow, comic elements in parallel with investigation of moral issues.

Members of the State Art Council nominated the leading actors for the State Prize of USSR. Alisa Freindlich was the one who didn't receive the Prize - according to the rules of that time, an actor couldn't be given a new Prize earlier than two years after getting the previous one. And Freindlich had already been awarded for her stage performance a year before the release of the film.

Soundtrack

The songs from the film, performed by Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov, became hits in the USSR.

  • Моей душе покоя нет (My Soul Has No Peace) by Andrey Petrov - Robert Burns, translation by Samuil Marshak - the main theme; two versions sung by Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov.
  • Нас в набитых трамваях болтает (We Are Jolted in Crowded Trams) by Andrey Petrov - Yevgeny Yevtushenko, sung by Andrey Myagkov.
  • Обрываются речи влюбленных/Облетают последние маки (Lovers' Talks Stop Suddenly/The Last Poppies Shed Their Petals) by Andrey Petrov - Nikolay Zabolotsky - Two songs with the same music by different lyrics, sung by Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov respectively.
  • Песенка о погоде (A Song About Weather), also known as У природы нет плохой погоды (Nature Has No Bad Weather), by Andrey Petrov - Eldar Ryazanov, sung by Alisa Freindlich.
  • Увертюра (Overture) by Andrey Petrov - Robert Berns - based on the main theme and "Lovers' Talks Stop Suddenly", opens the film.
  • Утро (Morning), instrumental by Andrey Petrov.
  • Дождь (Rain), instrumental by Andrey Petrov, based on "A Song About Weather" .
  • Танец воспоминаний (The Dance of Remembrances), instrumental by Andrey Petrov, based on the main theme.
  • Осень (Fall), instrumental by Andrey Petrov
  • Финал (Final) by Andrey Petrov - Robert Burns, based on the main theme.

In 2004 DJ Groove from Saint Petersburg released remixes of the main themes of the film that were frequently broadcasted by local radiostations.

Famous quotes

Many quotes from the film have become catch phrases in the Russian language.

  • Novoseltsev: I have children - a boy and... a boy. Two boys.
  • Verochka (secretary): I won't live that long, I have a hazardous job!
  • Novoseltsev (to Kalugina): We love you... in the bottom of our souls... somewhere very deep...
  • Kalugina: You've said that I am tough...
    Novoseltsev: No, you're tender...
    Kalugina: ... inhuman!
    Novoseltsev: Human!
    Kalugina: ...heartless!
    Novoseltsev: Hearty!
    Kalugina: ...dry!
    Novoseltsev: Wet!
  • Novoseltsev (to Shura, angrily): You, go to... the accounting department!!!
  • Verochka: What distinguishes a businesswoman from a Woman? A gait! Just look how you walk! ....Huddle yourself up, tie yourself in a knot, shrivel like an old torn shoe and here you are dashing to work as if hammering in beams!
  • Novoseltsev: It is well known that labor ennobles human being, that's why people go to work with pleasure.

Cast

Actor Role
Andrey Myagkov Anatoly Yefremovich Novoseltsev
Alisa Freindlich Ludmila Prokofievna Kalugina
Oleg Basilashvili Yuri Grigoryevich Samokhvalov
Svetlana Nemolyayeva Olga Petrovna Ryzhova
Liya Akhedzhakova Secretary Verochka
Ludmila Ivanova Labor Union Activist Shura
Georgi Burkov Logistics Manager
Pyotr Shcherbakov Pyotr Ivanovich Bublikov
Nelly Pshennaya Samokhvalov's wife
Alik Denisov Vova Novoseltsev

References

See also

Office romance

External links

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