Five Spoons of Elixir by the Strugackij Brothers and Temptation B by Arkadij Sirenko

Andrei Rogatchevski, University of Glasgow

The Strugackij brothers, Arkadij (1925-91) and Boris (b. 1933), have been responsible for a unique brand of philosophical (and covertly anti-establishment) sci-fi novels, which made them cult figures in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and stimulated numerous attempts to adapt their work for the big (and small) screen. Stalker (1979) by the internationally renowned Andrej Tarkovskij is perhaps the best-known attempt, whereas Sirenko’s 1990 screen version of  Five Spoons of Elixir has been unjustly overlooked. In my opinion, it has more to do with the unfortunate timing of the release of Temptation B (on the verge of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when film critics and potential viewers had other things to worry about) than with its not inconsiderable artistic merits. A thorough comparison of the script (written by the Strugackijs themselves) and the film is offered, with videoillustrations.

My  argument is that the script’s suspense and action sequences have been deliberately downplayed by the director in order to concentrate on the discussion of the question whether immortality is a godsend or a diabolic temptation. This makes Sirenko’s work a worthier effort than some of his other undertakings (thus, he was severely reprimanded by the critics for being too faithful to Evgenij Grigor’ev’s script of Otcy [Fathers, 1988]), and several other attempts to screen the Strugackijs’ prose, which made too much emphasis on the sci-fi component to the detriment of the philosophical dimension.