meeting place

The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed

The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (Место встречи изменить нельзя) is a 1979 Soviet 5-part television miniseries directed by Stanislav Govorukhin. It achieved the status of a cult film in the USSR, and along with Seventeen Moments of Spring it became a part of popular culture, as well as the target of many Russian jokes. The series star Vladimir Vysotsky in one of his final screen appearances (he died prematurely less than a year after the film's release). Soviet screen and stage legends Sergey Yursky, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, Zinovy Gerdt, Yevgeni Yevstigneyev and Leonid Kuravlev also appear in the film.
The film was released in the West as The Age of Mercy, the title of the novel by Arkadi and Georgi Vayner on which the film is based.

The film is set in post-WWII Moscow. A young reconnaissance officer Vladimir Sharapov (Vladimir Konkin) returns from the war and is assigned for peacetime duty at the famous MUR (Moscow Department of Criminal Investigations). There he becomes part of a team lead by the brilliant, tough, no-nonsense homicide detective Gleb Zheglov (Vysotsky). The duo becomes embroiled in two seemingly separate investigations: that of a murder of an aspiring young actress Larisa Gruzdeva, and a hunt for a vicious gang of armed robbers that calls itself "Black Cat" and constantly manages to evade capture. While suspicion in Gruzdeva's murder initially falls on her estranged husband Dr Gruzdev (Yursky), it gradually becomes apparent that that the two cases are connected, as a Black Cat member known as Fox is implicated in the murder. As a result of Zheglov's successful high-stakes operation to capture Fox, Sharapov inadvertently finds himself undercover at the Black Cat's hideout, sparring with the gang's menacing leader The Hunchback (Dzhigarkhanyan). What ensues is arguably one of Soviet television's most memorable and suspenseful finales.

Much of the series revolves around the relationship of Zheglov and Sharapov. While the two become close friends and roommates, they also clash throughout the film. The source of the conflict is Sharapov's disagreement with Zheglov's "ends justify the means" approach to law enforcement. Zheglov thinks that "a thief's place is in prison, and the public couldn't care less how I put him there". To that end, Zheglov thinks nothing of using dubious tactics such as planting evidence to justify the arrest of a known mugger. Sharapov, on the other hand, considers that law is a higher value for its own sake and cannot be used merely as a tool. A tense conflict also arises when, in order to mislead Fox, Zheglov elects to continue to hold Dr Gruzdev under arrest even after it becomes clear that the man is innocent.

Other Facts

  • The film's title is a reference to the finale, where Sharapov's botched attempt to get away after making contact with the gang forces Zheglov to follow a previously discarded plan for an undercover operation. Hoping that Sharapov would lure the bandits to the scene of a prior robbery as they had previously rehearsed, Zheglov utters: "The place and time of the operation cannot be changed."
  • Actors Sergey Yursky, Zinovy Gerdt, Yevgeni Yevstigneyev and Leonid Kuravlev star in the series. Years earlier, the four appeared together in the smash hit television comedy The Golden Calf based on the novel by Ilf and Petrov, with Yursky leading the cast as the lovable con artist Ostap Bender.
  • The popular song "Atas" by the Russian group Lyubeh is based on the characters of the film.

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