film still courtesy of

Russia, STW, 2003
Director: Petr Buslov
Script: Denis Rodimin and Petr Buslov
Cinematography: Daniil Gurevich
Music: Sergei Shnurov
With Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Andrei Merzlikin, Maksim Konovalov, and Sergei Gorobchenko
Awards: "Golden Ram" to Sergei Shnurov for Best Musical Score, Kinotavr (Sochi) 2003; "Golden Taiga" for best film at the "Spirit of Fire" International Festival of Debut films, (Khanty-Mansiisk, Russia), 2004.

It is difficult to specify exactly why so many have hailed the appearance of Petr Buslov's first feature film as a landmark event. Neither crime nor violence nor the moral decline of Russian youth are particularly new themes in Russian cinema. It is much too early to tell whether this film will begin a new tradition of Russian road movie. Its look and feel owe as much to the work of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino as to Russian directors such as Aleksei Balabanov or the late Petr Lutsik. Finally, it carries no overarching ethical message and makes no philosophical statement about the Russian condition. This has not prevented viewers from trying to find some lesson in this story of four young men on a journey to their own destruction.

The title character, a black BMW 750 IL, is as enigmatic as it is central to the action and thematics of the film. The car is neither the hero of the film, nor does it function as a surrogate "lead female" for the four male heroes. As the foursome find themselves without money and plan a robbery to provide for their basic survival needs, it never occurs to them to sell the one object of value they already possess, which would also rid them of the one object their pursuers most easily recognize. The German-made automobile has ironically become the car of choice for Russia's nouveaux riches, making it an adopted Russian as well as giving it the dark aura of an outlaw. Its status as a symbol of national power and pride is undercut at several points in the film. It proves to be as helpless against the elements of a Russian winter as were the invading armies of Napoleon and Hitler. When an old woman folk doctor, in a voice tinged with instinctive antipathy, refers to the car as a hearse, the insistent voice of another national archetype foretells the bad end that the viewer has already understood to be inevitable. The car is the instrument of their destruction, but they cling to it as they cling to their very lives.

Buslov's film has struck a chord with Russian viewers because it shows contemporary Russian life "as it really is." Strange as it may seem, this may indeed be the real innovation of Bimmer. Although Russian cinema of the last decade has explored nothing more thoroughly than the grim, gritty reality of the post-Soviet condition, Bimmer is different in that it neither wallows in chernukha-like black naturalism, nor glorifies Russian "otherness" vis-à-vis a sanitized and hypocritical West. Most importantly, it does not ponder questions of how we got here. The lost generation of 1990-s youth is taken as a given. The degradation of the country is not an ethical problem to be analyzed through the trials of an agonized individual, but a cancerous sickness that continues to reproduce itself through every stratum of a society that is not yet prepared to choose another road.

This film is suffused in tragedy not only internally but also externally. Six members of the film crew for Bimmer, including cinematographer Daniil Gurevich, perished in an avalanche in the Caucasus while working on location with Sergei Bodrov Jr.

Petr Buslov

director photo courtesy of

Petr Buslov was born in Khabarovsk and grew up in Vladivostok before moving to Moscow. He studied at VGIK under Karen Shakhnazarov and Vadim Abdrashitov. His short film, Hard Work of Old Moiras, a second-year course project at VGIK, was his first film made together with Daniil Gurevich, with whom he made his first feature film, Bimmer, while he was still a student. He has also worked as an actor, playing the lead in Il'ia Khotinenko's The Odyssey. 1989.

2000 Hard Work of Old Moiras
2003 Bimmer
2004: Prophets and Gains Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers STW [СТВ] Film Company Pygmalion Productions NTV-Profit Film Company

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