Boris Khlebnikov tells the story of a rural man with a dilemma that turns into an existential tragedy.


A LONG AND HAPPY LIFE (DOLGAYA SCHASTLIVAYA ZHIZN, Russia) is a film that centres on one character, Sasha, and his desperation to avoid the collapse of his life: his present job, his future projects, his relationship. The film starts with a shot of a river. Suddenly this image of the calm water changes, and the next scene takes place inside an office where some people argue: the state is trying to buy Sasha’s land in Russia. He is a local farmer and has the possibility of leaving this rural life and moving to town with his girlfriend Anna (who, incidentally works in the state department which wants to buy the land).

The problems for Sasha begin when the villagers he works with decide not to accept the selling of the land. They are determined to fight. But Sasha’s not against them. In one scene he fights against a fire alongside the other villagers and we understand that there is a sense of communion. He can’t abandon them, and his loyalty is the source of the main conflict of the film, a personal dilemma that we can see in his face when he stares at nothing or smiles nervously.

The constant shots of the river reinforce the idea of the land he has to preserve, the natural place where he should belong. Meanwhile, his girlfriend waits for him to get the compensation. She’s on the side of the ‘enemies’ but she’s mainly motivated by a dream of “a long and happy life”.

The two sides in this war – the farmers and the state – never meet. The only link between them is Sasha, caught up without knowing what to do. As the film progresses, he loses contact with everyone and ends up alone. Did he betray them all? Did they betray him and his dreams? It is difficult to place guilt in this film and it’s even harder to put oneself in Sasha’s shoes.

Director Boris Khlebnikov never uses gratuitous cruelty to narrate his tragedy. Instead, he films the story with a rhythm similar to the river stream that appears again at the end of the film, peaceful after a terribly strong current.