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Film / Sorcerers

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Sorcerers (Russian: “Чародеи”) is a 1982 Soviet fantasy musical film, directed by Konstantin Bromberg and with the Strugatsky Brothers as screenwriters, still considered a New Year classic in Russia. It was originally going to be a loose adaptation of Monday Begins on Saturday, however, it ended up with a completely different plot in a completely different universe, sharing only a few elements with the book: mainly the main location being a small northern town, the existence of Sufficiently Analyzed Magic, a magical research institute with a punny name, and a museum on chicken legs.


Ivan Pukhov, a worker at a musical instruments factory in Moscow, and Alyona Sanina, a promising young witch from Kitezhgrad (a popular setting in Russian Mythology and Tales), are engaged, and Alyona plans to fly to Moscow for the New Year celebration and the wedding. Things get complicated when her colleague and Abhorrent Admirer Apollon Sataneev learns of her upcoming marriage and does his best to at least sabotage it. He makes the institute’s director Kira Shemakhanskaya believe that Alyona is having an affair with her boyfriend, and Shemakhanskaya, already stressed with the workload, breaks down, doesn’t bother to inspect the matter thoroughly and curses Alyona, making her completely forget her previous love. The curse, of course, can be broken with True Love's Kiss – although it’s Alyona who must kiss her fiancé first and not vice versa, and it can only be done before the year ends.


Fortunately, Alyona’s friends at the institute manage to contact Ivan and urge him to rush to Kitezhgrad. Ivan arrives, accompanied by his headstrong little sister, and they masquerade as the composer and vocalist of the band invited to perform on New Year’s Eve.

Ivan attempts to find a way to trick Alyona into kissing him. His attempts include using a wand to summon her and sneaking into her room while she’s asleep, since the curse isn’t active in her dreams; but everything backfires. She still doesn’t remember him and now believes him the abhorrent admirer of the triangle. In the end, she grants him a kiss after all after he rescues Sataneev from a magical trick gone awry, and the spell is promptly lifted. At the same time, Shemakhanskaya’s boyfriend is found to have returned from his business trip and clears the matter completely: he has never had any romance with Alyona. The film concludes with a splendid (thanks to the wand) New Year celebration.


The film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Besides Sataneev, there is also the Guest from the South who tries to make passes on Alyona, although he’s not that insistent.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Nina for Ivan, at least until their arrival in Kitezhgrad. She was determined to accompany him throughout his planned romantic evening with Alyona, so it’s hardly surprising he was mad at her by the time they had to go to Kitezhgrad themselves.
  • Best Woman: Alyona invites Kivrin to be the bride's man at her wedding.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Shemakhanskaya asks Kivrin to buy her a collection of books by the Strugatsky Brothers. This is a movie with the Strugatsky Brothers as screenwriters, inspired by one of their books.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The plot wouldn’t have happened if Ivan Pukhov and Ivan Kivrin, the love interest of Shemakhanskaya, had had different names.
  • Dance Party Ending: The film ends with a grand New Year celebration with dancing, singing and fireworks.
  • Diegetic Musical: Several songs are justified in-universe. "The Centaurs" is the song of a band that is one of the candidates to sing at the New Year party. Nina sings "Three White Horses" and "Snowflake Song" as part of her masquerade as lead vocalist of the band that does get invited for the party. "The Serenade" is when the musical instruments' factory staff sing a song to the telephone operator to persuade her not to terminate the call.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The reaction Ivan gets from Kovrov and Bryl after he threatens Shemakhanskaya.
  • Engagement Challenge: Issued by Alyona herself. Even though she agrees to marry Sataneev, she gives him a long list of demands for him, ranging from very hard but theoretically possible (such as buying a house in another country) to plainly outrageous (getting himself young again).
  • Exact Words: A chronic problem with the magic wand.
    • Ivan asks the wand to bring him Alyona. As the wand is designed for service sector specifically, certainly not for helping with relationships, it brings: a) dolls called Alyona b) Alyonka chocolate bars c) furniture produced by “Alyonushka” firm d) a cow, apparently also a namesake.
    • Sataneev wants to be director and announces he’ll “sit astride a horse” (a Russian phrase meaning “to be in control” or “to be in the zenith of power/popularity”). In less than a minute, he gets his wish, getting carried to the horse statue on the rooftop, in a very severe midwinter frost.
  • Fat and Skinny: Foma Bryl (good-natured, on the dumber side, likes a drink) and Viktor Kovrov (sharp wit plus sharp tongue), Alyona’s friends and coworkers.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Kovrov runs after the sleigh where Ivan, Nina and Alyona are sitting to give Nina the trumpet, and then jumps off it right into a huge snowdrift. He admits he forgot he could use magic to make the whole thing easier.
  • Freudian Slip: Ivan, when announcing a song.
    Ivan: A song about (looks at Alyona in a white blouse) the Snow Maiden.
    Nina: Vanya, you’ve got it wrong! About a snowflake!
  • Genre Savvy: Nina is quite knowledgeable about fairytales and often understands the laws of magic before her brother does.
  • Good Costume Switch: When Alyona's spell breaks, she turns from a Lady in Red into a Virgin in a White Dress.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Kira Shemakhanskaya is a Benevolent Boss and Reasonable Authority Figure… but suggest that someone’s trying to steal her boyfriend, and she goes mad.
  • If Only You Knew: At one point, Alyona sings Sataneev a song about “the witching river” which makes people forget everything and everyone they have loved before. Sataneev looks visibly unsettled.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Olga, Shemakhanskaya’s secretary, is outraged when Kovrov suggests they listen to the director and Sataneev talking in the adjoining room. As soon as Kovrov and Bryl are gone, she takes out a stethoscope and proceeds to do exactly that.
  • Loophole Abuse: Parodied. Magic is an excellent thing... but it's bound by the rules of the Soviet 1980s reality! The magic tablecloth, for example, which supposedly makes all the meals you want appear lickety-split.
    Nina: Fine, please, give us simply two teas... with lemon.
    Tablecloth: Are you crazy, people?! There are no lemons in winter!
  • Love Makes You Crazy: According to Bryl:
    In love or crazy – from medicine's point of view, it's all the same.
  • Metaphorically True: Sataneev is not lying when he says he saw Alyona and Kivrin kissing in the hallway. However, he omits the fact that it was a crystal clear case of Platonic Kissing.
  • Muggle–Mage Romance: Ivan is a muggle and Alyona is a witch. The fact itself doesn't cause too many problems, especially since they are already engaged when the film begins, so they have probably worked the possible problems out already.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Nina, nine years old, is suddenly such a great singer that she’s able to work as lead vocalist with a professional band. Since her brother works at a musical instruments factory and can play the guitar and the trumpet, it’s not impossible, but it’s not mentioned beforehand (or afterwards either).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Alyona wants to kiss Nina after the band’s performance, Nina begs her to kiss Ivan instead. It nearly leads to them getting kicked out as Sataneev notices it.
  • Office Romance: Shemakhanskaya is the institute's director and Kivrin is her deputy. This sometimes makes things awkward between them, especially for Kivrin.
  • Rule of Seven: Kivrin proposes to Shemakhanskaya seven times (and always gets accepted in the manner of “Yes, the moment I have time”), before he finally gets a chance to publicly announce their engagement.
  • Running Gag: Several.
    • The Guest from the South hopelessly trying to figure a way out of the institute building.
    • Everybody waiting for the cat to learn to speak.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: Even when Ivan appears, demanding his fiancée to be returned to her normal state, Shemakhanskaya doesn’t realize Alyona has been completely innocent all the time. She begins to think that the girl cheated on Pukhov with Kivrin.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: That’s what happened with her and Kivrin, as Shemakhanskaya thought: she feared that, tired of waiting for her to accept him, he set his sights on the younger and friendlier Alyona.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Even Sataneev and cursed!Alyona are always unfailingly nice with Nina.