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Film / The Garage 1980

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The Garage (Гараж) is a 1980 film from the Soviet Union, by Eldar Ryazanov.

The staff of a zoological institute have gotten together and formed a cooperative to facilitate the construction of a parking garage. With everyone having paid their dues and earned spaces in the garage, construction is now set to begin. A late-night meeting of the co-op at the institute's natural history museum proceeds smoothly, until the co-op board drops some bad news. It seems that the government is going to build a new highway which will skirt the edge of the lot where the parking garage is going to go up. Consequently, four people are going to lose their spaces in the now slightly smaller garage.

The co-op board picks four unlucky people to lose their parking spots. They are, unsurprisingly, four of the least popular and least well-connected. Guskov the crane researcher isn't even there, being off in Siberia doing his research; he's represented by his wife. Yabukov is retired from the institute. Khvostov (Andrey Myagkov) can't even talk, having lost his voice after diving into cold water to save a seal. And Fetisov just generally seems to be a loser. The vote is taken and the meeting seems to be over. However, the four unlucky folks refuse to give up that easily, loudly protesting, accusing the board of corruption. They are supported by Lidia Malayeva, a junior researcher studying for her Ph.D, who pleads for her fellow members to behave better. Things really start to go sideways when Malayeva sneaks off with the keys and locks everyone in.

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Inspired by... a real-life incident in which Eldar Ryazanov attended a meeting regarding the garage co-op for Mosfilm, which deteriorated into a series of very ugly arguments after some of the members lost their spaces.


Tropes:

  • Allegory: The whole thing is an obvious satirical metaphor for the malaise of the Soviet Union in the late communist era. A high-handed and undemocratic government (the co-op board), corruption, nepotism, backstabbing, selfishness.
  • As You Know: We find out that Natasha the pretty younger woman is in a relationship with the significantly older Prof. Smirnov when she arrives at the meeting and another member says "Your woman's here."
  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: Towards the end, well after the board has lost control and the other members are voting to sack them, Sidorin, the head of the co-operative, sides with the protesters, betraying board chairwoman Anikeeva. She's incensed, and calls him a sellout.
    Sidorin: My incorruptible one, a timely sellout isn't a sellout, it's a judgment call.
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  • Berserk Button: Insult Natasha, and aging, soft-spoken, meek professor Smirnov gets really scary.
  • Bottle Episode: The whole movie takes place in the museum, with almost all of it taking place in the single room that the members of the co-op are using for their meeting.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Deputy director Anikeeva is accused of taking bribes. She denies it, but she's oddly solicitous of certain people, like Kushakova the supermarket director who isn't even part of the institute. She also admits to giving bribes in order to grease the permits for construction of the garage.
    • At some point Anikeeva explains that Kushakova, being very influential, helps the co-op in general, for the price of one garage box. According to the WordOfGod, the question of whether or not Anikeeva is guilty of taking bribes was intentionally left ambiguous.
  • Creator Cameo: Eldar Ryazanov as the guy who sleeps through the whole meeting, nestled up against a fiberglass hippo.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: A single evening and night among the increasingly ill-tempered members of the co-op.
  • Flipping the Bird: The "fig sign", a Russian equivalent that involves making a fist and sticking one's thumb out from between the first and second fingers. Khvostov The Speechless resorts to this to get his extreme displeasure across.
  • The Heart: Lidia Malayeva, almost the only one in the group who does not resort to sniping or bullying. Despite not being one of the people who lost a spot in the garage, she sticks up for them, and her act of defiance is a major turning point.
  • Heroic BSoD: The pressure of the evening eventually causes Mrs. Guskov to snap. She confuses two members of the co-op for her children, telling them to eat their dinner and do their homework, and confuses another for her husband, telling him to stay home and pay attention to his family. The temperature of the room drops after this after everyone becomes more friendly towards Mrs. Guskov.
  • Karma Houdini: Lampshaded with Sidorin: at the end, nearly everybody wants him to be expelled from the co-op, to the point of telling it to his face, but it still doesn't happen.
  • Locked in a Room: The story becomes this when Lydia, refusing to let the four unfortunates get steamrolled, locks everyone in. Things start going downhill a lot faster after that.
  • May–December Romance: Natasha is dating the much older Prof. Pavel Smirnov. She loves him and wants to get married, although he's reluctant. Natasha and Pavel's daughter Maria are the same age.
  • Nepotism: Not everybody who has a space in the garage is a member of the zoological institute. One of the spaces went to young Miloserdov, son of the older and rich Miloserdov who is an influential patron of the institute. Young Miloserdov is a pretty nice fellow, although not nice enough to quit voluntarily.
  • Running Gag: One man, known only as "the groom", who complains all night long because he is about to get married and is not sure his bride would wait for him.
  • Satire: A pretty ruthless satire of the petty foibles and hypocrisy of Soviet government in the late Brezhnev era, a period still known as the "Era of Stagnation".
  • Serious Business: The four people losing spaces are pissed. As are others as the meeting deteriorates. Extremely nasty insults are hurled back and forth.
  • The Speechless: Khvostov, who has temporarily lost the power of speech after diving into cold water to help a seal. Being The Speechless doesn't mean he'll go quietly, though. He disrupts the meeting by jumping up onto the table and lying down directly on top of the board's documents. Later he goes marching through the chaotic crowd with a sign that says "I'll show you!"
  • Suddenly Voiced: The formerly mute Khvostov suddenly regains the power of speech towards the end, and decisively steers the meeting to its final conclusion.
  • Video Credits: Stills of the big stars at the start of the film. This was pretty much an All-Star Cast of Soviet cinema of the day.
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