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Film / Private Life

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Private Life (Частная жизнь, Chastnaya zhizn) is a 1982 film from the Soviet Union, directed by Yuli Raizman.

Sergei Abrikosov is a director of some state-operated company. At some point in the backstory he recommended the merger of his company and another. It happened, but with unintended consequences for Sergei: after the merger, he was discharged and forced into retirement, with the younger head of the other corporation getting the job.

So now Sergei, who's been a workaholic, is suddenly at home. He is somewhat surprised to discover that his family doesn't seem to like him very much. His marriage has grown so stale that his wife Natalya tells him not to look when she changes for bed. His sons regard him with bored indifference. Sergei for his part isn't quite sure of the name of his second grandson. Will Sergei be able to reconnect with his loved ones?


  • Ambiguous Ending: Sergei has succeeded in establishing a new emotional bond with his wife and at least one of his sons. In the last scene he receives an urgent call from the ministry—it's implied that he has been summoned back to work. He hurriedly dresses, and finishes by tying his tie. Then the camera slowly zooms in on him as he pauses and looks at his own reflection in the mirror in a contemplative way, and the film fades to black. Has he learned anything? Will he continue to give his family some attention? Who knows?
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Sergei, frustrated with the lack of any interest from his wife, goes over to Nelli the Sexy Secretary's apartment. He asks if he can stay the night and she says no, he has to go home. He then asks if she has a flip-out bed and, in an annoyed tone, says that he certainly won't sully her maidenly virtue. Nelli, who has already admitted that she was once The Mistress to an older married man, says that if he isn't going to sully her virtue, what's the point? She more brusquely ushers him out and then breaks down crying, sensing that a moment has been lost.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Averted with an actual gun. Getting fired from his job causes Sergei to take a long look at the gun (which he's had for 40 years, since the war) in a cigar box in his desk. In a depressed moment at home, he takes a look at it again. Then later he goes to look again, and the gun is gone. It turns out that Igor took the gun and gave it to his mom to hide, so the Chekhov's Gun is never fired.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: After leaving work Sergei takes a cigarette from his driver, who is surprised, noting that Sergei had quit. He's smoking again after the stress of losing his job.
  • Dead Sparks: The sparks are so dead in Sergei's marriage that Natalya tells him not to look when she's changing, and flatly refuses to take his hand when he asks. Towards the end they reconnect, going to a circus and reminiscing about their youthful affair (Sergei was cheating with Natalya while married to his first wife).
  • Downer Beginning: Sergei is fired from his job and forced into retirement.
  • Glasses Pull: Sergei puts on his reading glasses to read a telegram. After reading it, he wearily takes the glasses off and tells the family the news: his first wife has died.
  • Imagine Spot: Sergei, at a loss for how to fill the hours after losing his job, hears a state news anchor nattering on about new Aeroflot flights to Kenya. He imagines himself getting off a plane and being greeted by a bunch of Kenyans. The news anchor then talks about how businesses are hiring old people to work as security guards. He imagines himself as a security guard, marching around outdoors in the snow.
  • Married to the Job: Sergei's backstory. His wife says that she developed her own career because she sensed Sergei didn't really need her to be a wife to him. Igor says that his father's Sundays home with the family were unpleasant, because everyone could sense that while he was with them, Sergei was thinking about work and wanting to go back.
  • No Antagonist: There's no bad guy. Even Viktor, the guy from the other company who took Sergei's job after the merger, invites Sergei to the office, serves him tea, says that he never intended for Sergei to lose his job and hopes they can be friends.
  • Reluctant Retiree: Much to his displeasure, Sergei is booted out of his company in favor of a younger man and forced into his retirement. He finds himself with time on his hands and a family of near strangers.
  • Sexy Secretary: Nelli, Sergei's attractive secretary, who invites him over to her apartment. She talks about how she was The Mistress to a married man and seems to be making a veiled invitation, but Sergei bungles his answer, the moment is lost, and he leaves.
  • Slice of Life: A workaholic is forced into retirement and then has to actually spend some time with the family that he's ignored for decades.