Russian Language Blog

Watching a Movie – Falcon Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 in Culture


In my previous post about Georgia (and why we, the students of the Russian language and culture should care about Georgia), I promised that come weekend we’ll be watching a movie and gave you a few hints as to which one.

The famous Georgian director, Георгий Данелия (Georgiy Danelia), directed and the famous Georgian actor, Вахтанг Кикабидзе (Vakhtang Kikabidze), starred in the movie Мимино (Mimino).  The entire movie is available бесплатно (free of charge) through Mosfilm’s YouTube channel.

The movie is about пилот вертолёта (a helicopter pilot) from a remote village in Georgia. One day he decides to go into большая авиация (long-distance routes flown by large planes). With this idea in mind, the hero, Валико Мизандари (Valiko Mizandari) nicknamed Мимино (Mimino) or “falcon” in Georgian, goes to Moscow. There, while at a hotel, he meets an Armenian truck driver, Рубик Хачикян (Roobik Khachikyan). The meeting is accidental and starts off on the wrong foot. Yet, as they deal with their completely unrelated problems, they become настоящие друзья (true friends).

There is an expression in Russian, мужская дружба, that means a friendship between men. This particular kind of friendship воспета (is eulogized) as the самая прочная (strongest), беззаветная (unreserved, absolutely selfless), вечная (eternal) between two people who are not related by blood. Friendship between женщины (women) cannot possibly hold a candle next to this мужская дружба.

Not every friendship between men rises to the level of настоящая мужская дружба. But the relationship between Mimino and his случайный попутчик (accidental companion) overcomes the odds to become just such a thing.

And yet this is no bromance movie. Friendship is important to the plot, but is not central to it. Even without meeting Roobik and without Roobik’s помощь и поддержка (help and support), Mimino’s fate would still be the same in the end. I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you чем заканчивается фильм (how the movie ends). Let’s just say, it’s a happy, yet decidedly un-Hollywood, ending.

Here’s the challenging part about this movie. Much of its dialogues is in Georgian with Russian voice-overs. Every song except for the opening one is in Georgian as well. So you might end up relying on English subtitles a bit too much. Even when Russian is spoken, it’s a heavily-accented Russian with грузинский акцент (Georgian accent). Again, you might need to rely on субтитры (subtitles).

Then there are some scenes that might seem very strange to people who are not familiar with how things worked in the Soviet Union.

For example, hotel rooms were all double-occupancy, so if you travelled alone, you were practically guaranteed a roommate who would be a total stranger. This, of course, left very little privacy. But privacy as a concept was almost entirely absent from Soviet culture. This becomes especially evident when you try to find a Russian word that expresses the concept of “privacy”:

одиночество – loneliness
уединение, уединённость – solitude
скрытность, секретность – secretiveness
личное дело – private affair
конфиденциальность – confidentiality

The movie became a source of some very popular крылатые фразы (catch phrases). Most are said by either Mimino or Roobik – non-native speakers who are провинциалы (provincials). This means what they say sounds hopelessly naive to the sophisticated Muscovites. Most are also grammatically incorrect. The combination marks Mimino and Roobik clearly as outsiders, as people who while симпатичные (nice) and располагающие (likable) simply do not belong. Which, of course, сближает их (makes them relatable) to the viewers, including those who have never set their foot in either Georgia or Moscow.

Take, for example, the now-classic Ларису Ивановну хочу! The verb хотеть (to want) when applied towards a person means “want to have sex with” as in a quiz from the Russian issue of the Cosmopolitan magazine titled Хочет ли он тебя (Does he want to have sex with you?) And back in the days of Mimino, sex was a forbidden topic and movies and books were sanitized for any references to плотская любовь (physical love).

But most of the movie’s memorable phrases come not from Mimino, but from Roobik, the truck driver. For example, every time he is about to give unsolicited advice, he starts with a phrase Я тебе один умный вещь скажу, только ты не обижайся. (I am going to tell you this smart thing, just don’t get offended.) Can you spot and correct a grammatical mistake here?

He also authors the wonderfully garbled Ты и она не две пары в сапоги. Which is actually a Russian saying два сапога пара (birds of a feather; lit: two boots from the same pair).

As you watch the movie, don’t worry if you do not understand everything in it. Don’t worry if you rely on subtitles to follow along. In this story, it is not the words that ultimately matter, but rather цепь, которой привязан вертолёт (the chain that chains the helicopter).

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  1. Jeannie:

    Думаю, что “Мимино” – мой самый любимый фильм! :))

  2. David:

    Я тебе [один умный] (одну умную) вещь скажу, только ты не обижайся

  3. Rob McGee:

    Just started watching it (and will probably have to wait till Monday to finish).

    After a bit of Googling, I was able to find out a little about the song that Vakhtang Kikabidze is singing in the video clip — the repeated refrain “Chito-gvrita, chito-margolita” literally means (in Georgian) “Little turtledove, little pearl.” But the popular Russian translation is птичка-невеличка (since the words for “turtledove” and “pearl” don’t fit the melody as well, I guess.