White Sun of the Desert is one of the most popular Russian films of all time. Its blend of action, comedy, music and drama have made it wildly successful and it has since achieved the status of a cult film in Soviet and Russian culture. The film has contributed many sayings to the Russian language (see below). Its main theme song, "Your Excellency Lady Luck" (Ваше благородие, госпожа Удача, music: Isaak Schwarz, lyrics: Bulat Okudzhava) became a huge hit. The film is ritually watched by cosmonauts before many space launches . The director, Vladimir Motyl, said such films as Stagecoach and High Noon influenced him and he has described the film as being a "cocktail" of both an adventurous Russian folktale and a western. Initially several directors, including Andrei Tarkovsky, were offered the film but they turned it down, Motyl claims, for two main reasons. Firstly, it was thought only American actors could pull off the part of a lead role in a western, and secondly the screenplay was considered weak. Motyl, whose family had been in social exile under Stalin's rule, was practically forced to take the screenplay or never work in film again. He consequently rewrote a large part of the screenplay, and all the dialogue for Pavel Luspekaev's character, Vereshchagin, was written immediately before shooting began . The screenwriters published the book under the same title. A Russian computer game was released based on the film. In 1998 the creators of the film were awarded the 1997 Russian Federation State Prize in Literature and Arts, nearly 30 years after the film left the silver screen.
The setting is the east shore of the Caspian Sea (today's Turkmenistan) where the Red Army soldier Fyodor Sukhov has been fighting the Civil War in Russian Asia for a number of years. After being hospitalised and then demobbed, he sets off home to see his wife, only to be caught up in a fight in the desert between a Red Army cavalry unit and Basmachi rebels. Sukhov ends up having to guard and protect the harem of the Basmachi guerilla leader Abdullah, as his army comrades pursue him. The task proves to be much more difficult than he originally thought, and in between attacks from Basmachis and offers from the harem, Sukhov must deal with Vereshchagin, a drunken former Imperial Russian customs official who still looks after the trading outpost and museum they shelter in...
Many popular sayings have entered the Russian language from the film. The first is by far the best known.
- The East is a delicate matter (Восток — дело тонкое); refers to any complicated or difficult matter, not necessarily "eastern" in nature.
- Customs gives a permission ("Таможня дает добро!"); refers to any type of approval, especially reluctant approval.
- His grenades are of wrong system ("Да гранаты у него не той системы"); refers to or to comment upon any kind of excuse, particularly a pathetic one. The line wasn't scripted, but improvised by the actor.
- Gulchatai, show your face ("Гюльчатай — открой личико"); a popular Russian saying for boys to say to girls.
- I'm sorry about the Empire ("За державу обидно"); refers to the weak state of Russia, which used to be a superpower, used again in political context since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
- Raisa Kurkina (Раиса Куркина, Sukhov's wife)
- Anatoly Kuznetsov (Анатолий Кузнецов, as Sukhov)
- Spartak Mishulin (Спартак Мишулин, as Sayid)
- Pavel Luspekaev (as Vereshchagin)
- Kakhi Kavsadze (Кахи Кавсадзе, as Abdullah)
- Tatiana Fedotova (Gulchatai)
- Tatiana Denisova (also Gulchatai)
- Nikolai Godovikov (Николай Годовиков, as Petrukha)
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite web
- ↑ BBC: American space 'nerd' blasts off Saturday, 7 April 2007