The Anxiety of (Paternal) Influence in the Films of Aleksei Yurevich German

Anthony Anemone, College of William and Mary

Each of Aleksei German’s films is profoundly influenced by the life and works of his father, Yury Pavlovich German (1910-67), a prominent and popular Stalinist writer who chronicled the adventures of the NKVD, the militia and the Red Army in stories and novels published between the 1930s and 60s. More than simply using his father’s prose as the basis of the screenplays for Proverka na dorogakh and Moi drug Ivan Lapshin, German’s movies are an attempt to come to grips with the older generation’s experience of World War II and Stalinism. Rather than openly attacking the generation of “fathers” for their complicity in the tragedies of Soviet history, German recreates the psychological context of the past with great subtlety and sympathy for individuals who found themselves at the mercy of powers beyond their control.

While German takes advantage of every opportunity to express his admiration for his father’s talent and character, in his films he engages in a complex and thoroughgoing polemic with his father’s political ideology (Stalinism) and artistic practice (Socialist Realism). While Benjamin Rifkin analyses technical aspects of adapting the novella Lapshin into the film My Friend Ivan Lapshin in terms of Lotman’s notion of “transcoding,” he does not address the broader political, aesthetic and psychological aspects of the father-son relationship that will be the focus of this paper.


German, Aleksei, director. Proverka na dorogakh. 1971/1986.
______ 20 dnei bez voiny. 1976.
______ Moj drug Ivan Lapshin. 1983/1985.
______ Khrustalev, mashinu! 1998.
German, Aleksei. “Ne bud’ my takimi...” Iskusstvo kino, 1989, No. 6, pp. 26-29.
German, Yury. Dve povesti: Lapshin, Andrei Zhmakov. Leningrad: Goslitizdat, 1938.
______ Operatsiia “S Novym godom!” Moscow: Izd. pol. lit., 1964.
Lipkov, Aleksandr. “Proverka. . . na dorogakh.” Novyi mir, 1987, no. 2, pp. 202-225.
Rifkin, Benjamin. Semiotics of Narration in Film and Prose Fiction: Case Studies of “Scarecrow” and “My Friend Ivan Lapshin.” New York: Peter Lang, 1994.