The Irony of Fate, or, Enjoy Your Banya!
(Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!) is a Soviet romantic comedy television movie from 1976. It was directed by Eldar Ryazanov and starred Andrey Myagkov and Barbara Brylska.
Zhenya (Myagkov) is a surgeon in Moscow on New Year's Eve. He is preparing to greet the new year with his sexy young girlfriend Galya, who has just agreed to marry him. Zhenya's friend Pavlik comes by the apartment to pick up Zhenya and take him to the banya (a public bathhouse) for their traditional New Year's Eve bath. Zhenya and Pavlik meet their other two friends at the bath, and the foursome starts toasting Zhenya's engagement with vodka shots. Pavlik has to catch a plane to Leningrad, so the party moves to the airport, where both Zhenya and Pavlik pass out drunk while they wait for the plane. Zhenya's other two friends, themselves quite drunk, can't remember who was supposed to get on the plane, and they wind up putting Zhenya onboard by mistake.
Zhenya sleeps through the whole flight to Leningrad and then stumbles his way to a taxi. Still very drunk, he gives the taxi driver his address. Due to the uniformity of Soviet urban planning, the street names and addresses are the same, as are most of the buildings that a half-conscious Zhenya passes by while riding in the taxi. He is dropped off by the taxi driver at the Leningrad address that matches his Moscow address. Soviet architecture is so uniform that his key even opens the apartment that matches his Moscow apartment. Zhenya doesn't notice he's in the wrong apartment any more than he noticed he was in the wrong city, instead flopping down on the bed to sleep off his liquor. The situation grows more complicated when the person who actually lives in the apartment, a language and literature teacher named Nadya (Brylska), arrives home to find a strange man asleep in her bed. It grows still more complicated when Nadya's fiance Ippolit arrives to see in the New Year with Nadya and finds a strange man in her apartment.The Irony of Fate
aired on Soviet television in two parts on Jan. 1, 1976. It was a massive hit, so successful that it was released in theaters later that year. It has since become a Russian holiday tradition, airing on New Year's Eve every year since. A sequel, The Irony of Fate 2
(or The Irony of Fate: Continuation
), was released in 2007, picking up the story thirty years later.
- Animated Credits Opening: The film starts out with a cartoon in which an ambitious, creative architect sees his creative design turned into a boring rectangular apartment building by Soviet authorities, who then build exact copies of that same building everywhere. This becomes plot-relevant later, when the sameness of all the drab apartment buildings causes an inebriated Zhenya to stagger into the wrong apartment building in the wrong city.
- Creator Cameo: Director Eldar Ryazanov plays the man sitting next to Zhenya in the plane.
- Cut-and-Paste Suburb: The apartment blocks of 1970s Soviet suburbia, so much so that a drunk Zhenya can't tell the difference between the Moscow neighborhood where he actually lives and the Leningrad neighborhood where he's dropped off.
- Disposable FiancÚ: Galya and Ippolit, as Zhenya and Nadya fall in love over the course of a single night.
- Either/Or Title: The literal translation is The Irony of Fate, or With Good Steam!
- Extremely Short Timespan: The whole film takes place over less than a day, from the afternoon of New Year's Eve to the late morning of New Year's Day.
- Fiery Redhead: Galya has red hair and the temper to match, and she is not having it when Zhenya calls her from Leningrad with a most unlikely story of why he stood her up.
- Foreshadowing: Zhenya tells Galya about that one time he almost got married, when he panicked at the last minute and flew off to Leningrad. This story does not help him later.
- Hangover Sensitivity: Zhenya is not at his best when an agitated Nadya yanks him out of her bed and demands that he leave.
- Maybe Ever After: The film ends with Nadya flying to Moscow, finding Zhenya's apartment (which after all has the same address as hers in Leningrad), and embracing him. The sequel reveals that they eventually parted ways and married other people (but Zhenya's friend Pavlik comes up with a scheme to get the lovers back together).
- New Year Has Come: New Year's, of course, being the most important holiday on the Soviet/Russian calendar. Zhenya and Nadya wind up celebrating together after he's stuck in Leningrad (he doesn't have any money for the return flight) and Ippolit storms out in a jealous fit.
- One Crazy Night: All Zhenya wanted to do is go out and celebrate his engagement, then go home for New Year's with his pretty fiancee.
- Running Gag
- All the interruptions that happen when Nadya and Zhenya are making emotional connections—the phone rings, Ippolit barges in, Nadya's friends drop by, Nadya's mother drops by, total strangers knock on the door looking for a place to party.
- Zhenya's and Nadya's repeated efforts to explain to multiple people how he wound up in a strange woman's apartment in a different city for New Year's.
- Same Language Dub: Barbara Brylska was Polish. All of her dialogue was overdubbed by Valentina Talyzina, who also appears as one of Nadya's two friends that drop in.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: The second time that Nadya's friends barge in, a big argument ensues, which Zhenya ends by planting one on Nadya's lips.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Perhaps justified as Zhenya is a professional man, a surgeon, which might explain how he could land a young, hot woman like Galya despite being balding and nearly forty.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Zhenya and Ippolit have one when a furious Nadya throws both of them out of her apartment.
- Vodka Drunkenski: Zhenya isn't really a drinker, which made it that much easier for him to get completely tanked with his friends at the banya.
- Zip Me Up: An angry Nadya is about to stalk out of the apartment, but not before
asking demanding that Zhenya help zip up her boots. He's pretty clearly turned on by this.