Sea-Buckthorn Summer 

 History of totalitarian country through personal tragedy 

Genre: drama, biography
Starring: Andrei Merzlikin
Status: completed, 2018, Russia
Script by Olga Pogodina-Kuzmina
Directed by Viktor Alferov

Lendok Film Studio Production, 2018

Starring: Andrei Merzlikin, Alexander Userdin, Polina Chernyshova, Sergei Kaplunov, Yevgeny Syty, Sergei Agafonov, Irina Denisova, Kirill Rubtsov and others

The end of Khruschev’s Thaw. A dramatist from the provinces, Alexander Vampilov, tries to get his new play, “The Duck Hunt”, put on in Moscow. The character’s inner searching for his own creative path is linked to his attempts to reestablish the truth about the repression of his father, who appears in his dreams with increasing frequency.

The dramatist Vampilov’s biography isn’t packed with events. Education, first publications in a large regional newspaper, then stories and plays. Marriage, the birth of his daughter. Unsuccessful attempts to make a breakthrough onto the capital’s stages, a period of despair that replaced the dreams of youth. The typical fate of a creative person from the provinces who is forced to make his own way in life.

This is the story of a modest man who didn’t like to boast about his achievements and never experienced true renown in his lifetime. The only thing that distinguishes his fate from others was his tragic and senseless death, and, of course, the magnificent plays in which the author managed to capture his time, a time that came at the fault line between two historic epochs. The heyday of Vampilov’s creative life came at the beginning of the Thaw, according to one biography, “following the Epiphany frosts of thoughtlessness, the cemeterial monotony of life, bans, names returned to Russian art, the rediscovery of  magnificence in foreign culture, the expectation of major changes, optimistic hopes…” But if in the exile of Brodsky, in the trials of Sinyavsky and Daniel, in the persecution of Paradzhanov and in the banning of the films of German the dislocation of the Soviet era is laid bare for all to see, Vampilov’s tragedy does not unfold in public, it unfolds in the deeper layers of the artist’s soul. 

Vampilov is a representative of the most defenseless class within the Soviet intelligentsia. He is a man from the provinces, from the sticks. The foreign radio stations and diplomats didn’t make a fuss about his artistic work. He didn’t strive to be published in the West. He didn’t search for trendy or scathing themes. It’s no accident that his characters are inhabitants of small towns and villages. It’s no accident that the scene of the action in his stories and plays is designated with the word “outskirts.” He knew that world well – he grew up in a regional town, in the family of a teacher. And, of course, it’s by no means an accident that this quiet country boy with a poetic and at the same time ironic view of the world became the voice of a generation. Unfortunately, only after his death. 

The film “Sea-Buckthorn Summer” is a story about the author of stories that are loved, such as “The Elder Son” and “The Duck Hunt.” But it isn’t a biography in the usual sense. The film conveys the atmosphere of that era, which at first opened up before the young writer as a kaleidoscope of opportunities, and then slammed all the doors shut, leaving just one way out – death.