Soviets Plus Electricity (2002) - full transcript

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---
I abandoned a lot of hearts back there.

I got word
that all my queens were lost.

So what, I went to Magadan.

We're even!

There I saw the Bay of Nogaiisk

and the dirt roads.

I didn't go there

out of the blue!

V. Vysotsky

SOVIETS PLUS ELECTRICITY

A cinetrip by Nicolas Rey



REEL #3: Yakutsk, Magadan.

When things get dicey

although it's far and expensive,

I can go see a friend in Magadan.

It's okay!

You have not seen the Bay of Nogaiisk,

you fool!

I didn't go there

out of the blue.

Tomorrow is September 13th.

A month after Friday the 13th,

when I was in Chernobyl.

Maybe it was
to put an end to romanticism

that I decided to leave
for the end of the world.



The incredible thing

is that I convinced people to help me,

and I should thank them, incidentally.

In the end, I didn't have much to do.

Just get myself here,

just be in one place,

and say I want to go to another one,

and off I went.

Without even having

to decide

when to leave.

It just happened.

And I don't want to complain,

but I'm still a little surprised.

If I hadn't stalled for time,

I'd already be on my way.

10:30.

Volodia went to get changed

after checking the tires

and, as it's the season,
loading the potatoes

that are also

part of our payload,

and taking care
of minor technical details.

Then I was immediately put on spud duty

for the soup.

The morning soup, at 8 a.m.

Potatoes, carrots,

a little... a half tin of meat

thrown in.

That's all.

Some tea.

The oil heater.

Volodia went bare-chested

to wash up in the river.

2 p.m. We've been on the road
since this morning.

Since this morning's soup.

We stopped once
to visit a friend of Volodia's,

Kolya,

who lives

in an isolated shed.

Two or three cows,

a horse or two,

and the river downhill

supplying its daily ration of fish.

The world's cleanest river, as he put it.

He's 59 years old.

And 37 of them he spent "sitting"

as they say in Russian

and as he

frankly admits.

The last 10 years

not far away from here

in a prison near Yakutsk.

He doesn't want to go anywhere
anymore. Now he's staying put.

He's had a girlfriend for some time

and a five-month-old daughter.

But his girlfriend wants to leave here.

So he will keep the child

and in two years' time, when she's two

he will travel,

go see his homeland,

Western Ukraine, near the border,

just behind the Carpathians.

Funny,
that's also where Volodia comes from.

All the way across.

They went from one end...

from one extreme to the other.

"But," he said,

"Volodia is a city dweller."

He himself comes from the mountains.

He's a real "Mujik".

Maybe one day
I'll come back to film more of him.

Quite a character.

And he told us
that people he knew had left yesterday...

Acquaintances
that were going toward Magadan.

Maybe we would catch up with them.

At the rate we're going, I doubt it.

But we know what their truck looks like.

We know
where they could have stopped.

We'll see.

We just stopped in a village
but since Volodia isn't very...

How should I put it?

...isn't very talkative,
I don't know why we're here.

He asked directions to this house.

I don't think this village

is where that truck could be.

Unless it left,
because it's a yellow truck

and there's no yellow truck around.
There's a blue one,

but no yellow ones.

It's pretty here.

I forgot what the name was.

"Yukutche" or something like that.

I remember discussions

around the table at Christmas.

How we used to quarrel about politics.

Now, we're a gang of consumers.

They're in the house.

I'm waiting outside.

I like it better that way.

Especially since I know

that it takes special authorization

to come here in the boondocks.

Probably because

of the large number of gold mines

in the area.

I'm only gathering pebbles.

I'm avoiding the yellow ones.

1 9 1 6:
On the whole,

capitalism is growing
far more rapidly than before,

but this growth is not only
becoming more and more uneven,

We'll be arriving at Tomtor.
- its unevenness also manifests itself

in the decay of the countries
which are richest in capital.

We'll go deliver the fuel.

Volodia said he has a friend there.

His friend's wife is a "businesswoman"

and she goes to Magadan
from time to time.

Maybe that is

how I'll go down
the other side of the mountain.

Then we'll be about half-way

between Yakutsk and Magadan.

At the point of no return, so to speak.

Volodia told me earlier

that today is Friday.

I was shocked.

That means...

I should really look at a calendar...

one of these days.

I took it upon myself

to ask Volodia to play the Vysotsky tape

he had played the first day.

Whereas I used to let him play
whatever he wanted.

No sooner had I put the tape in

did he notice

a problem with one of the wheels.

A flat tire.

Not only that,

oil was leaking from the engine.

We've been stopped for five hours.

Had to fix everything.

It looks like
we'll be spending the night here

because it's already 11 p.m.

A trucker's life.

Well, it's now 6 o'clock.

Volodia finally came back.

We had soup together. But I didn't eat.

And then

he drove me

back to Tomtor,

where I am now,

in the hotel.

The four-room hotel

in Tomtor.

Four rooms and not four stars...

The receptionist isn't in.
There's a sort of substitute.

Not a very friendly guy.

No sign of...

that van which is leaving tomorrow
for Ust-Nera.

The guy says someone here
is leaving tomorrow for Ust-Nera.

I should wait for the lady
in charge of reception.

I asked him
if there was a store nearby.

Because we ate my last tin of sardines

with Volodia just before.

Just before I threw up.

And now my supply bag
has never been emptier.

When Volodia was here,
the guy would talk to me

but since he left,
he's been staring at the TV set

with his head in his hands.

He refused to answer
when I talked to him

and asked him where there was a shop.

A quick glance and bang!
Back to watching TV.

As we say in French:

"Talk...

Talk to my ass,
my head is not doing so well."

Whereas it's my head that hurts

but it's him...

But eventually,

the silly program he was watching
came to an end.

Some local variety show.

So I went out into the vestibule...

the typical Siberian vestibule

and I heard him
leave the reception booth.

He probably thought
I had gone to look for the shop by myself.

So I came back in

and in the corridor
he had no choice but to talk to me.

First he said there were no stores.

There was one in the center of Tomtor,
but not around here.

And anyway it was closed on Saturdays.

Then, after a little chat,

asking me where I came from and so on,

he told me there was one
"maybe a little further down the road".

So I went
"maybe a little further down the road".

And it was closed.

So I dread asking him
if there's a restaurant.

In this place!

All's well that ends well.

In order to move

the bed the "diejurnaia"

had prepared for me

into a room

that she hadn't lost the key to

we asked this young fellow for help

and he turned out to be that driver

we met this morning.

The one who was sleeping

hidden under his blanket in room #4.

I wouldn't have recognized him

but since he wasn't surprised

when I asked him

if he could take me to Kanditcha,

I knew it was him.

He told me
we were leaving early in the morning.

I asked him what time

but he didn't answer.

I asked if he could wake me up

and he said yes.

But he didn't seem very happy about it.

So I set my alarm clock for 5 a.m.

And since

I went to bed at 7 p.m.,

it wasn't hard to get up.

I noticed that he was still asleep.

So I went back to bed myself.

Around 5:45 I heard some noise:

a car was coming.

I got up.

And in the shower, I waited.

Whereas in France,

you have to wait for the cold water

between the shower head and the heater

to run off in order to enjoy

the comfort of heated water,

here,

being the first person in town

to take a hot shower,

you have to wait

for hot water to come from the plant.

Just as it was finally reasonably warm

the driver knocked on the door
yelling: "Let's go!"

So I jumped into my dirty trousers

and here we are in that UAZ van

driving to the sound
first of Julio Iglesias

and now to some more local music.

After three days

in an overloaded truck

I feel as if I were in a rocket

doing 50 km/h

on the trail going down

or rather going up the Indigarka valley.

950 km to Magadan

according to the milestones.

Dinner time.

I probably gave

Volodia or someone else

my fork.

No problem,
only I don't have another one.

It's going to be tricky
eating Chinese noodles

with my fingers.

Anyway, we'll manage.

I asked the "diejurnaia"

if there was anyone in the hotel
going to Magadan.

As usual, first she said she didn't know

but then she said:
"Oh yeah, the policeman next door to you.

He asked me to wake him up at 7 a.m.
He's going to Magadan tomorrow."

I don't feel
like traveling with a policeman.

An old instinct.

Can't help it.

I'd rather stay here

tomorrow morning and film.

I hope I can find
someone driving to Susuman

a hundred kilometers down the road.

I learned the names
of the villages on the way. It's easy:

"Bolshevik",

"Kholodny" which means "cold"

and gives an idea

of the climate here.

The third one is harder: "Neksikan".

Like "Mexican",

only "Neksikan".

I guess I'll have to thumb it after all.

Ah! Tea's ready.

Maybe you can hear it in the background.

Time to eat.

Oh! My sardines and ham

come from Saint Petersburg!

Although we're ten times closer

to the Pacific than to the Baltic Sea.

I suppose it's possible
there are no sardines

in the Sea of Okhotsk.

But pigs should grow around here.

I even know where: in room 202B.

Here's what happened:
on my way to the bathroom

I ran into those policemen.

Of course...

And naturally
they started asking me where I'm from...

If I was thirsty...

So I pulled out
the old bad liver excuse.

I didn't feel like drinking.

But it was okay.

We had a little chat.

Actually, we might meet again tomorrow

because they're also taking
the 3 p.m. bus from Susuman.

They're hitch-hiking to Susuman as well.

Only it's easier for them to stop a car.

So they said.

Oh well.

They sang a little song for me.

I didn't record it.

Too bad.

I didn't have the tape recorder with me.

I was born around the time
when Khruschev was deposed

and I became old enough to vote

when Gorbachev came into power.
- So tomorrow

I'll take a few shots and
then go catch that bus in Susuman.

I guess
I'm part of the Brezhnev generation.

Here, even the ravens are silent.

It stopped!

It was the garbage truck.

It's great because

he took the shortcut to the road

avoiding the police checkpoint

taking me straight to the bridge.

Now I just have to wait.

Oh! My pants are full of dung!

Not too good for hitch-hiking.

My first time ever

in this time zone.

My first time ever

in this time zone.

1 920:

And I feel kind of alone...
- Marxist theory has proved,

and this is confirmed by the experience
of all European revolutionary movements,

that the private owner, the smallholder,
who, under capitalism,

very frequently suffers
a most acute and rapid

deterioration in his conditions of life,
and even ruin,

easily goes to revolutionary extremes,

but is incapable of perseverance,

discipline and steadfastness.

1 920:

The petit-bourgeois driven crazy
- Oh! A green car coming up...

by the horrors of capitalism is,
like anarchism, a phenomenon

typical of capitalism.
- No, blue. And a blue truck.

The instability of such revolutionism,
its barrenness,

This is my blue period.
Here I am trying to look sharp.

its tendency to turn into submission,
apathy, phantasms,

or even a wild infatuation

with one bourgeois fad or another,
all this is common knowledge.

Blue, though light blue.

There are only six cars
going in circles in this place.

There's...

the garbage truck.

There's...

the water pipe repair truck.

There's the police.

There's a jeep marked "Telegraf"...

no idea what it's doing.

There's a mysterious small blue van

and a Toyota with tinted windows.

As for the other possibilities:

I dismissed the coal truck,

the delivery truck dismissed me,

and the other businessmen...

No thanks.

Magadan, Magadan.

7 a.m.

The sun isn't up yet.

It's kind of cold.

Long time since I've seen a real city.

And traffic lights.

Though they're only

blinking orange

at this hour.

Soldiers are on duty
in front of the bus station.

"Magadan Hotel", "Magadan Restaurant",

"Magadan" bus station,

"Magadan" bus.

Maybe I'll call France

and tell them I'm finally here.

It's 8 p.m. back there.

Yesterday.

So...

I was looking for the post office

to see if it was open, and make my call.

I was rounding the corner

of Lenin Street...

Ah!
I have to interrupt this live broadcast!

So I have to tell you this story

while the immersion heater

remedies

the lack of hot water.

They gave me a bucket
and an immersion heater

to get washed.

I guess I must

have looked like someone

who's been doing
a little too much traveling.

So I was looking for the post office

so I could make my phone call

and as I was turning
the corner of Lenin Street...

There he was.

But he didn't give a damn.
He was looking the other way.

Into the morning fog.

Just then,

a squad of policemen
escorting a drunk woman

came out of the building
across from the "Magadan Hotel",

behind the bus station

that turned out to be...

that turned out...

Behind the building
opposite the "Magadan Hotel",

near the Lenin monument,

behind the bus station,

that turned out
to be the police headquarters.

Oh well.

I have to admit I was not unnoticeable

with my three bags

and my mug looking as if...

How should I put it?

Well. Anyway.

Anyway, they arrested me of course,

and they asked me where I came from...

My passport, my visa...

They started thinking

I had been on Russian soil for two years

because I had a visa

from two years ago.

And when I explained that I came by bus,

that I hadn't flown in from Paris,

they had a hard time believing me.

That I had come

by road from Yakutsk...

So I ended up in the back of their car

for a little

routine check.

Only instead of taking me in
to headquarters, where we were,

they started joking around

and saying they would take me
for a short tour of the city.

And we landed
somewhere in the industrial harbor.

And there...

There, they stopped the car,

got out,

took out a bottle of vodka

that had already been tapped into,

as I had noticed.

And they asked me if I was in for a drink.

So I tried the classic bad liver trick.

The funny thing is

that I learned the word for liver,
"petchen",

because I bought a tin

of cod liver.

I thought it was cod

but it was cod liver.

That's how I learned the word for liver.

A very useful word,

proving that there's a very fine line

between cod-liver oil

and preventing alcoholism.

So, at that point

they got out of the car...

Strangely, they grabbed a machine gun,

one of them

started putting on a pair of gloves...

Gloves for doing the dishes,
yellow rubber gloves...

The bottle of vodka...

There was a brief dubious moment.

Then it seems they were called
over the radio to go somewhere else

and we drove like mad across town.

As soon as they got there,

they were called to headquarters.

A screeching U-turn
and back to headquarters.

There, in the headquarters,

I met their boss

and things worked out.

He was very nice.

I just need to have my visa registered.

So he called
the Director of the Visa Office for me,

where I had to go.

Then they actually took me there

to get it registered.

But the office was still closed,
it was too early.

So they took me to the hotel,
the "Magadan Hotel",

across the street
from where they had nabbed me,

and they turned me in to the "diejurnaia".

So now I'm in my room

with a view

of Magadan.

I can see another hotel.
Maybe they have hot water.

Probably not,

because it's usually supplied
to the whole neighborhood or city.

So that was my introduction

to Magadan.

And the funny thing is,
when I explained

I had come in short steps,

"po etapam" as I said in Russian,

they told me

that the term was specific

to deportees.

"Po etapam" is the way they were

transferred from one prison to another

all the way to Siberia.

So I said: "So, here I am."

I forgot to say something.

When they took me
to the industrial harbor

they said:

"See, this is the beautiful bay
facing the city."

And I couldn't help replying:

"Sure: the Bay of Nagaievo."

So they looked at me and went:

"I thought it was your first time here."

So I said: "It is,
but there's a famous song by Vysotsky:

You haven't seen
the Bay of Nogaiisk, etc."

So they said: "Okay. Fine. Whatever."

And so it was

that after a bathroom scene,
which was burlesque yet comforting,

and sporting his least soiled shirt,

he stepped out

into the brisk sea air.

This film was shot
in August and September 1999.

Martine Cornet read the excerpts from:

"Imperialism,
The Highest Stage of Capitalism"

and "Left-Wing Communism:
an Infantile Disorder"

by Lenin, written in 1916 in Zurich,

and in April 1920,
back in Russia.

"Soviets Plus Electricity" was self-produced
and the work print was made

with the technical means
of L'Abominable,

a cooperative film lab in Paris.

Thanks to the support
from the French Ministry of Culture

an optical sound print
could be made by the Cinédia laboratory.

Translation by P. Chodorov / N. Rey
Subtitling by SUBS Hamburg