The Irony of Ironija sud'by, ili S legkim parom!

Alexei Pavlenko, Colorado College

El'dar Rjazanov's comedy Ironjia sud'by, ili S legkim parom! (1975) has become a part of Russian collective consciousness. Aside from its entertainment value, the film poses an interesting hermeneutic problem. The apparent theme of the story is the search for and the celebration of the authentic in the world of faceless mediocrity. This theme is highlighted in the film's epigraphic cartoon: the ineluctable domination of box-like buildings all over the globe. This metaphor--anonymous, predictable architecture equals anonymous, predictable lives--is then further reinforced and developed through culturally significant oppositions: new architecture-old architecture (marked); Moscow-Leningrad (marked); shower- banja (marked); day-night (marked); briefcase- venik (marked), etc. The marked terms of the binary oppositions stand for the authentic and spontaneous, the features that make this comedy--the triumph of good over evil--possible. Such structural analysis, however, is undercut by the final scene where the protagonist, Lukashin, an apparent agent of the marked terms, thanks his fate for landing him in Leningrad where there exists "exactly the same street, exactly the same house, and exactly the same apartment" as his own in Moscow. How is the viewer to interpret these concluding words? Does the film end up celebrating what it set out to castigate? Is it merely an attempt by the authors (Braginskij, Rjazanov) to appease the censors? This is not borne out by the other Stagnation period films by the same authors. Both Sluzhebnyj roman (1977) and Garazh (1979) manage to sustain their satire to the end. The resolution to the hermeneutic problem of the Ironija sud'by is to be found in the deconstructing of the proposed binary oppositions and in the analysis of the irony as a dominant trope in the film.