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. Zhenya and Nadya did not stay together, instead breaking up fairly soon after the events of the first film. Nadya wound up marrying Ippolit, and they eventually divorced, but not before having a daughter, also called Nadya. Zhenya also married and divorced, and also had a child, his son Kostya. The film opens with a drunken Kostya somehow winding up in the same Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) apartment—but unlike Zhenya's drunken odyssey, Kostya isn't really drunk, and went there for a reason. And Kostya is surprised to find not his father's old love, but her daughter, younger Nadya. And Nadya 2.0 has an Ippolit 2.0, in the person of her boyfriend, arrogant cell phone company manager Irakily.
The Irony of Fate 2 was directed by Timur Bekmambetov and stars, in addition to Myagkov and Brylska, Konstantin Khabensky (Kostya) and Elizaveta Boyarskaya (younger Nadya). It shares many tropes with the original, as many of the story elements are repeated—also on New Year's Eve, also taking place over a single day, also featuring a Disposable Fiancé, also dubbing Barbara Brylska, etc. Tropes unique to the sequel are listed at the bottom of the page.
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 Moscows St. Basils cathedral is visible from his buildings 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.
- Foreshadowing: 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 sequel reveals that they eventually parted ways and married other people (but Zhenya's friend Pavlik comes up with a scheme to get the lovers back together).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
askingdemanding that Zhenya help zip up her boots. He's pretty clearly turned on by this.
Tropes unique to The Irony of Fate 2:
- Can't Hold His Liquor: Not only is Kostya not drunk, he's The Teetotaler, because he's alcohol intolerant and a single drink will mess him up. Eventually he's forced to down a shot of vodka, and sure enough, it knocks him on his butt.
- Creator Cameo: Or maybe Mythology Gag. But that's Eldar Ryazanov, again, as the guy on the plane next to a drunk Kostya.
- Cutting the Electronic Leash: Irakliy is nagged by phone calls throughout the entire film. In the end, he gives it to a random kid as a New Year gift.
- DecemberDecember Romance: Zhenya and Nadya renew their romance after 30 years apart.
- Deus ex Machina: Kostya would have flown back to Moscow, and been out of Nadya 2.0's life forever, but bad weather cancels the flight.
- Discreet Drink Disposal: The officer interrogating Kostya at the police station seizes upon the New Year's moment to start downing shots. Kostya pours his into a potted plant.
- Generation Xerox: Kostya and Nadya 2.0 have repeated much of their parents' lives—Kostya is also a doctor, Nadya 2.0 is also a single woman (living in her mother's old apartment) with a fiance she has mixed feelings about. Irakly for his part takes Nadya 2.0 for granted much as Ippolit did with his Nadya.
- Love Makes You Crazy: As he is escorting a drunken Kostya to the airport, Irakly, mystified, asks the taxi driver why Nadya picked Kostya over him. She in turn tells him that love is irrational, noting how children don't love for logical reasons, but just because.
- The Matchmaker: This is the main difference between the first and second films. In the sequel, Kostya's arrival at the apartment is not "the irony of fate" as it was with his father, and Kostya is only pretending to be drunk. It's all a scheme cooked up by Kostya and his father's friend Pavlik to reunite Zhenya, now a lonely divorcee, with his old flame Nadya. But fate still takes a hand and complicates events when Kostya makes it to the apartment and finds not Nadya, but her daughter Nadya 2.0.
- Maybe Ever After: For both Zhenya and Nadya, reunited after 30 years, and for Kostya and Nadya 2.0, after he wakes up and finds himself still in her apartment. Discussed by Zhenya and Nadya, on the train back to Moscow, as they wonder about the fate of their kids, in the last lines of the movie.Zhenya: You know, I think they'll make it.
Nadya: We'll see.
- No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: "Have I changed a lot?", asks Nadya after seeing Zhenya for the first time in 30 years. He says she's just the same.
- Product Placement: The other marker of time passing, besides all the fancy effects, is all the product placement in capitalist 2007 Russia. Nadya 2.0 has Nestle candies at her New Year's table, and Irakly drives a Toyota.
- Race for Your Love: Nadya races to the train station to catch Zhenya before his train departs for Moscow.
- Santa Claus: Or Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz), the Russian equivalent thereof, who hands out presents on New Year's. Kostya borrows a drunken Grandfather Frost's costume to sneak back into Nadya's apartment, and she winds up dressing as Grandfather Frost's daughter, the Snow Maiden.
- Sequel Escalation: The original was a 1976 TV movie made in the Soviet Union, so, pretty low-budget. The sequel is a 2007 theatrical release in high definition, with fancy graphics, freeze-frame shots, and CGI effects.