A Cruel Romance – Russian drama (1984)

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“A Cruel Romance” (“Жестокий романс”) is Soviet melodrama directed by Eldar Ryazanov. The movie was filmed in 1984 and based on the play “Without a Dowry” (“Бесприданница”) written by the Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky in the 19th century.

The film gained popularity with the audience and received several awards. However, critics blamed the director for deviating from the author’s interpretation of the play and his wrong emphasis.

The story

The story takes place in a fictional provincial town in the years 1877-1878. Kharita Ignatyevna Ogudalova, a noblewoman from a good and respected family, a widow with three adult daughters, was impoverished after her husband’s death, but she does everything to arrange the lives of her daughters and marry them to rich and distinguished suitors. In the absence of funds, she keeps an “open house” hoping that a society of beautiful and musical ladies will attract single men, rich enough as to marry out of love a women without a dowry.

The main character of the story and the last not married daughter of Kharita is Larisa, the youngest. Several wealthy gentlemen are interseted in her, among whom is Sergey Sergeevich Paratov – a handsome, charming, smart, frivolous and rich gentleman.

Watch the movie

There are a few places where you can watch this movie for free:

On YouTube (in Russian with English subtitles):
1st episode
2d episode

Russian Pod 101

On SovietMoviesOnline there is a version in Russian with English subtitles and a version in English. This site will ask you to pay when you open the same page for the second time, so we recommend you to open it in incognito mode to avoid it.

Movie soundtrack

The romances and melodies that sounded in the movie also gained popularity among Russian viewers. The soundtrack was released on vinyl and audiotapes immediately after the movie was first shown.

If you like the style “Russian romance”, we are sure you will appreciate the compositions. Unfortunately, the videos are blocked from display anywhere else but YouTube, so we can only provide you with the links:

Любовь – волшебная страна (Love is a magical land)
А на последок я скажу (And in the end I will say)
Под лаской плюшевого пледа (Under the caress of a plush blanket)

There are also the songs of other styles in the movie, for example this one, “gypsy” style:

А цыган идёт (And the gypsy goes)

The original play

If you are a fan of Russian literature, and your Russian is good enough to read works in the original, we suggest you read the play “Бесприданница” itself. The book is available here to read online and download.

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