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72 min. Russian.

In a First World War trench, a uniformed Russian boy with freckles loses his sight during a German gas attack. Due to his keen sense of hearing, he is kept at the front and deployed to listen out for enemy planes at the giant metal pipes that form a kind of early-warning system.
The colours are faded, as if the images were from another time. But there’s also a stylised, abstract quality to the grainy footage. Little by little, the bodies take centre stage – their vulnerability and their energy, they almost seem like creatures. The camera and the editing keep pace with the young blind man. He lurches through the military camp, annoying the other men because he can only grasp his surroundings by touch. His face remains open, innocent. He seems to be trying to find a place for himself as a soldier, both literally and figuratively. Contemporary documentary recordings of orchestra rehearsals for Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 Op. 30 (1909) and Symphonic Dances Op. 45 (1940) don’t interrupt the narrative flow, but rather translate motifs and themes into an acoustic resonance chamber. (Anke Leweke)

Alexander Zolotukhin was born in Zaporozhye, Ukraine in 1988. Together with his family, he lived in remote regions of Kazakhstan, Belarus and the Caucasus in Russia. He earned a degree in computer science from the Kabardino-Balkar State University in Naltschik, Russia. At the same university, he participated in a film workshop led by Alexander Sokurov in 2015. Zolotukhin lives and works in St. Petersburg. Malchik russkiy is his first feature-length film.

War is a catalyst – for the best and for the worst 

The profession of film director is for free people who are not afraid to talk about what they think and feel. It is a profession which demands that you work on yourself daily. To get results, you have to overcome your own weaknesses, which fuels a drive towards self-realisation. In exchange, directing offers you the possibility of processing your curiosity and all the knowledge and impressions that you have acquired and collected, and to harness your full potential.
I received my training as a director in the masterclass of Alexander Sokurov, who had a formative influence on the development of my worldview and on my approach to this activity. He taught us that transforming an initial idea into a film was equivalent to growing a tree: its trunk grows, branches out, and spreads to form a dense crown. Accordingly, developing the script, selecting the actors, the work on location, the edit and the sound mix must each contribute to expanding and deepening the film’s form and content.
The vast legacy of world art moves and inspires me. For the development of characters, I find inspiration by reading classical literature; paintings by important artists often point me towards visual solutions and the composition of individual shots. What interest me as an author are people’s feelings, the torments of their soul, their kindness, their worries and doubts – the interior world of humans, not the external circumstances of their lives.
I often work with non-professional actors. For me it is important to not bring a fictional character to life through the art of an actor, but to transfer the fascinating character of a living person onto the screen and thereby preserve it. Here I follow the principles that Alexander Sokurov teaches his students: humanism, enlightenment and a categorical discomfort vis-à-vis any aesthetic of violence.

It’s not about reconstruction
The film MALCHIK RUSSKIY deals with people at war, with their relationships and their feelings. This topic did not come to me by chance. My father is a military pilot. I spent much of my childhood in barracks, so I am intimately acquainted with this world and I am familiar with army people. The war in the film only provides the extreme circumstances in which the protagonists act and reveal the essence of their character, in which comradeship, friendship, intimacy and concern for others can arise. War is a catalyst that can bring out both the best and the worst in a person. Noble feelings, in particular, are most clearly visible in the midst of dirt and death. The Second World War still resonates in us like a personally experienced history, because of its enduring political significance and because it is anchored in people’s collective memory – all these elements influence how it is perceived. The greater temporal distance to the events of the First World War, on the other hand, makes it possible to look at that war with more detachment.
As far as the costume and production design were concerned, we deliberately wanted to avoid a faithful reproduction of historical details, which is why the film team took inspiration from the conventions of painting. In depicting our theme, we were primarily concerned with the feelings of the protagonists, not with the faithful reconstruction of details. This approach required us to visually develop a feeling for memory, because we are not witnesses of the events of that time, we are people who look back on that time.
The First World War triggered a number of tragedies in the past century. People lived in this vortex of historical events. What were they like, these people who managed to survive in such a world? That is the question that confronted us when we were choosing the actors. If you look at photographs from the beginning of the 20th century, the faces are different from today’s faces. Hard physical labour and hunger had an effect on the physique and facial expressions of the people of that time. We went out on the streets, in factories and among the cadets at military schools, looking for actors with a physical appearance that would fit the film. It was particularly complicated to find the actor for the leading role. We imagined him as a gentle, naïve and kind-hearted boy with a difficult fate. In the end, we found him in a children’s home.

Rachmaninoff’s music
The music is particularly important for the film. What you hear are works by Sergei Rachmaninoff. In 1909, the composer wrote his Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. This work’s intensity and power had something unprecedented for that time and made it seem unreal, in a way. Today, it seems even more unreal that the civilised nations of Europe would collide in a bloody world war only five years later. The concert can be understood as the brilliant composer’s premonition of the fate of a nation that would soon face tragic experiences. Three decades later, at the beginning of the Second World War, Rachmaninoff created his Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, a work whose expressive power is even more formidable – and then he never composed again. The intensity and power of Rachmaninoff’s music still astonishes us today, at a time when the calls for new wars are growing louder. (Alexander Zolotukhin)

Production Eduard Pichugin, Alexander Sokurov. Production companies Lenfilm Studios (Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation), Example of Intonation Fund (Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation). Written and directed by Alexander Zolotukhin. Cinematography Ayrat Yamilov. Editing Tatyana Kuzmicheva. Music Sergej Rachmaninow. Sound design Andrey Fonin. Sound Andrey Fonin. Production design Elena Zhukova. Costumes Olga Bakhareva. Make-up Kseniya Malkina. With Vladimir Korolev (Alexey), Mikhail Buturlov (Nazarka), Artem Leshik (Makar Petrovich), Danil Tyabin (Corpsman), Sergey Goncharenko (Officer), Filipp Dyachkov (Propagandist).

World sales ANT!DOTE Sales
Premiere February 10, 2019, Forum


2011: Novyi Prometei / New Prometheus (7 min.). 2012: Pesni, chto peli do menya / Songs That People Sang Before I Was Born (12 min.). 2014: Ornament (20 min.). 2016: Opyty / Esse (55 min.). 2017: Zhizn' moego druga / Life Story of My Friend (22 min.). 2019: Malchik russkiy / A Russian Youth.

Photo: © Lenfilm Studios

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur