A Severe Young Man

They say that this film has four titles, except for the Severe Young Man, it is also was called the Household Commissioner, Fairytale Komsomolets and Diskobol. The philosophical and romantic drama of Abram Room based on a piece by Yuri Olesha could have really had any of the titles. After all, it represents a kind of sadness, an attempt to bring a new person of the Communist society - with all of the contradictory unity of human nature, carnal sin and desire for spiritual absolute and external perfection - to the screen.


The late stage of Yuriy Olesha's work was conditioned by the pressure of the public search for new social forms of communication and life. Those forms have often densely fetishized the attractive appearance based on the motto "the healthy body has the healthy spirit". Literally, we are talking about the basis of the system of physical education in the USSR –sports complex, the RLD meaning "ready for labour and defense", which founded and argumented the lack of spirituality of the future masters of life. Therefore, not by chance, the main character of the film Grisha Fokin creates another moral complex of RLD, with simple, understandable and important principles.  They essentially remind us of the religious moral standards, because we are talking about honesty, modesty, fairness, generosity and chastity of the future Komsomol members.

But exercising the body, it turns out, is considerably easier than exercising your soul. Fokin will face the extraordinary challenge for he falls in love with a woman who's married with a famous surgeon. This brings out the bold statement by Yuriy Olesha about the firstborn inequality that cannot be eradicated from the society. Naturally, the key question emerges, whether we want it or not, – is it possible in this case to create a fundamentally new society with some fundamentally different citizens? Or - if possible - then we will have to deal with no longer natural people but with humanoid machines?

In any case, the matter of the film, the aesthetics of the narrative appears to be extremely majestic. It brings us into the elements of neoclassicism. It is logical to say, it immerses into the currents of the Stalin neoclassicism – but not that far away, somewhat western, we see a surprisingly similar artistic and public tendency. At about the same time, in 1936, in Nazi Germany, Leni Riefenstahl creates her famous Olympia, a classicist poetical chronicle of the 11 Olympic Games held in Berlin. And by its side - a bright tale about the communist future. In both cases, the antiquity is a visual dominant.

It is noteworthy that the role of Grisha Fokin, which was eventually performed by Dmitry Dorliak, in the beginning, was successfully performed by an aspiring actor Dmitry Konsovsky. Half of the material was even filmed with his participation but the law enforcement institutions intervened the process. Konsovsky was arrested and accused of conversations about the benefits of Nazism and Hitler. The actor was sentenced to 7 years and died in the camps.

Olesha and Room might have wanted to create a strict film about the harsh communist future but what they created, in the end, was tragic and totalitarian.

As a result, the Severe Young Man was banned, and never made it to the theatres. There are several explanations of the ban. The most common was about another accusation in formalism, and also that the film did not correspond to the socialist realism canons. However, in the middle of the 1960s, the film was quietly shown to the students of VGIK, and in the 1970s, it even made its way to some theatrical screens. Then again it went back to the "shelf". And only in 1994, the utopian film that breathes with the architecture and lightness of old Odesa was presented on public TV.

As before, some viewers perceived the story of the Severe Young Man as false and fake. Others would call it a real success and "one of the most peculiar films of the 1930s and the best film of Abram Room".