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Film / The Irony of Fate

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С новым годом!

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 (Pharaoh).

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.

In 2007 a sequel, The Irony of Fate 2 (or The Irony of Fate: Continuation), was released in theaters. It picks up the story 30 years later.

Tropes in The Irony of Fate:

  • 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.
    • The irony of their situation is highlighted when Nadya goes for a walk through the iconic imperial era architecture in Leningrad. When Zhenya manages to gets home Moscow’s St. Basil’s cathedral is visible from his building’s porch.
  • Diegetic Musical: Both Zhenya and Nadya enjoy singing and playing the guitar, and are often asked to do so. It even includes a moment of Hypocritical Humor, when Nadya's friends ask her to sing and Zhenya refuses to listen, saying he doesn't like amateur performances.
  • Disposable Fiancé: 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 a little more than 24 hours, from the afternoon of New Year's Eve to the evening 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.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Given the notorious shortage of residential real estate in the Soviet Union that would plague it until its end, Nadya's two-room apartment is unrealistically spacious for an unmarried schoolteacher's.note  Zhenya living in an identical apartment together with his mother displays a more realistic situation.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Besides the Animated Credits Opening showing the exact same apartment building being scattered all over the communist bloc, there's the opening narration. A narrator cheerfully notes how buildings, streets, and suburban districts all over Russia look the same and have the same street names and addresses. The stairwells are even painted the same! This sets up a drunk Zhenya's confusion when he's dropped off at the right address but wrong city.
    • 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 Mistress: Nadya rather shamefacedly explains that she was this for many years to a married man, which is why she still isn't married at 34.
  • Neat Freak: Ippolit berates Nadya that it's a wonder she even noticed Zhenya in her messy apartment and that this would have never happened if it were his own.
  • 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.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: Ippolit's last visit to the apartment finds him drunk, after having drowned his sorrows. He goes into Nadya's shower with his clothes still on.
  • Not Where They Thought: The plot of the movie kicks off when Zhenya, drunk to the point of unconsciousness, is put on a plane from Moscow to Leningrad by his equally drunk friends (one of them had in fact planned to go to Leningrad that night). By coincidence, there is an apartment with the same address as Zhenya's in Leningrad, so, as he has slept through the flight and doesn't remember it, it takes him quite a while to learn he isn't at home anymore.
  • 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.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Serious, straight-laced Ippolit for Nadya and controlling, nagging Galya for Zhenya.
  • 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.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: An antagonistic case with Ippolit and Zhenya, most clearly shown while the two are arguing after Nadya kicked them both out. Ippolit derides Zhenya as a happy-go-lucky airhead whose kind ruins everything good in he world, while Zhenya thinks Ippolit is a bore who stifles everyone around him with his narrow-minded behavior.
  • 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, at least a decade older, and unattractive.
  • 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.