Series / The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed
A detective novel, the Wainer brothers' The Age of Charity
, written in 1975, became basis for this 5-part 1979 miniseries, The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed
. In a case of Adaptation Displacement
, the popularity of the film has eclipsed that of the book.
Both tell the story of a young and idealistic army officer Vladimir Sharapov, who retires from the Soviet Army after WWII ends and is assigned for duty to Moscow Criminal Police (МУР in Russian). There he comes under the command of Gleb Zheglov, an experienced, brilliant, and no-nonsense police officer, who becomes a Big Brother Mentor
to Sharapov. They investigate several murder cases connected to the activities of the infamous Black Cat gang (loosely based on a real gang or group of gangs operating in post-WWII Moscow).
The film was directed by Stanislav Govorukhin and soon hit the most-beloved-films Top-10 in Soviet Union. An urban legend claims that there were no crimes committed during the time the series was first shown — all the criminals were at home, watching the television. Nowadays, it is still popular and considered to be a TV classic
. The TV format is five hour long series (common for TV series in Soviet Union).
- Affably Evil: Val'ka the Smoked is quite friendly towards Zheglov.
- Anti-Hero: Gleb Zheglov is a Pragmatic Hero, uncomfortably close to Unscrupulous Hero: his goals are genuinely noble, but he is quite trigger-happy and readily plants evidence. In the book the main events are almost the same, but the nuances are quite different, and Sharapov concludes that Zheglov simply likes to kill, noble goals notwithstanding, making him a Nominal Hero. Of course, Sharapov can be mistaken.
- Bad Guys Play Pool
- Big Guy: Ivan Pasyuk
- Bittersweet Ending: The book ends tragically, but TV bosses told Govorukhin that the audience cannot stand two tragic deaths in a row, forcing him to choose between Varya and Levchenko. Govorukhin had chosen Varya to survive.
- Black Market Produce: In autumn of 1945 there's no famine, but food is being rationed, and anything above the set limits costs a lot. The Black Cat gang rob stores and then sell food through an accomplice in a cafeteria. The scene in their hideout is a feast honest people cannot afford, with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.
- By-the-Book Cop: Vladimir Sharapov, which is what first brings him into conflict with Zheglov.
- Calling Card: the Black Cat gang leave a cat drawing or an actual cat at the scene of the crime.
- The Charmer: Zheglov uses guile to get what he needs from witnesses, criminals and coworkers. However, he also has the ability to switch from friendly to ruthless in a very short time.
- Crime Reconstruction: subverted. Sharapov convinces the bad guys that Fox can be rescued while he reconstructs a crime "on location". This is in fact a part of a desperate Batman Gambit on his part.
- Cunning Like a Fox: Fox, a member of the Black Cat gang.
- Da Chief: Superintendent Svirskiy.
- Evil Cripple: Hunchback.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Zheglov plants evidence to extract information from a known petty thief named Brick.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: The suspect points out that he's familiar with the trope from literature, as well as the psychological reasons this works in real life even if the suspect is familiar with it. As expected, it does work, after a fashion — possibly because the Good Cop does like the suspect and the Bad Cop does loathe him.
- Guttural Growler: Zheglov
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Most of the interrogation scenes. Zheglov vs. Pen-Master, Zheglov vs. Val'ka the Smoked, Zheglov vs. Kostya the Brick Saprykin...
- The Hero: clean-cut Sharapov fits the bill.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Zheglov's modus operandi.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Blotter (Promokashka)
- Jerkass: A several criminals, especially Kostya "The Brick" Saprykin.
- Large Ham: Gleb Zheglov performed by Vladimir Vysotsky - in awesome way.
- Long List: Zheglov listing all the aliases of Man'ka "The Bond":
Zheglov: OK, check these out... Laricheva Manya... a.k.a. Anna Fedorenko... a.k.a. Ella Katzenellebogen... a.k.a. Lydmila Ogurenkova... a.k.a... a.k.a. Izolda Men'shova,.. a.k.a. Valentina Paneyat...
- The Munchausen: Grisha "Six To Nine". Zheglov even calls him "a grandson to Baron Von Munchausen".
- Must State If You're a Cop: Sharapov, an undercover MUR agent, faces this question when he tries to infiltrate a gang. He answers: "Do I have to provide a document from the Militsia that states I'm not in it"?
- Na´ve Newcomer: Vladimir Sharapov, former infantery scout, in the role of a cop.
- Nice Hat: Zheglov's.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: Zheglov. He's genuinely fights and despices crime in every way, but he's prejudiced as hell, not above planting the evidence (though only in the case of a known career thief), and more than a little bit trigger-happy. It is implied that he's simply The Sociopath who is Genre Savvy about it, and has chosen an occupation where he can do most good and least harm.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Criminal! Is! To! Be! Jailed!"
- Quote Mine: During investigation a caught criminal is asked to write three short fragments by hand, ostensibly in order to get a sample of his hadwriting. Two of the three are from real books. But the third, when read by itself, sounds like a thinly-veiled recommendation letter—which later gets used to gain trust of the criminal's gang.
- Sacrificial Lion: Vasya Vekshin.
- Shakespearian Actors: Hamlet as Zheglov.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The main theme of the film. Sharapov represents Idealism, Zheglov pepresents Cynicism. The highest point of antagonism is a scene with petty thief Kirpich (the Brick) framed by Zheglov for the sake of information about Fox. While juxtaposed, neither of the attitudes is shown to be better than the other.
- Smug Snake: "The Brick" in the scene with evidence planting gloats at the fact that he refused to lift the wallet (that Zheglov just put into his pocket) he just tried to steal form a woman on the tram:
"The Brick": (lisping) You haff no methothh againtht Kothtya Thaprykin!
- Spared by the Adaptation: Varya
- Street Urchin: Zheglov was this, as revealed when he offhandedly drops a few lines on his backstory.
- Suicide by Cop: A variation. Levchenko, a member of the Black Cat gang, doesn't actively want to die—but he really doesn't want to go back to prison, and is ready to risk almost certain death by cops' bullets to avoid it.
- Train Escape: Interestingly, the guys being chased don't know it, and only use the Train Escape as a habitual precaution.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Wainer brothers used several Real Life cases in the MUR's eventful '45 summernote as a basis of their book, though they took a lot of liberties writing them into the plot.
- Villainous Breakdown: When Fox realises that Sharapov had tricked him into writing a letter to the Black Cat gang, he suddenly loses his self-confidence.