Co-opted Carnival: Nikita Mixalkov's Sibirskij cirjul'nik

Lisa di Bartolomeo, University of Pittsburgh

Nikita Mixalkov's 1999 film Sibirskij cirjul'nik (The Barber of Siberia) attempts to enlist traditional associations with Russian culture and literature to enrich his film and enhance its appeal to a Western audience. In particular, he uses scenes of a maslennica celebration to coopt the energy and attraction inherent in the carnival. But, using a Baxtinian framework for the interpretation of carnival, as applied to film theory by theorist Robert Stam (Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism, and Film [Johns Hopkins Press, 1989]), I argue that Mixalkov's antiseptic version of carnival is designed to appeal to Western stereotypes of Russian excess and indulgence. This paper investigates the cleaned-up kitsch of Mixalkov's film and compares it with other depictions of the spirit of carnival in recent Russian films, most notably Yurij Mamin's 1995 film, Okno v Parizh (Window to Paris).