Brother 2

[Брат-2]

Collage by Jerry McCausland

Russia, STW, 2000
Director: Aleksei Balabanov
Script: Aleksei Balabanov
Cinematography: Sergei Astakhov
Music: M. Belovolov
With Sergei Bodrov, Victor Sukhorukov, Sergei Makovetskii, Irina Saltykova, Kirill Pirogov, Aleksandr D'iachenko, Daria Lesnikova, Ray Toler, and Lisa Jeffrey

This sequel to the phenomenally popular Brother portrays not so much the "return" as the "rebirth" of Danila Bagrov. The Danila who went to visit his older brother in St. Petersburg was a lone hero with no real biography, and his claim to have served as a mere clerk in the army during the Chechnya campaign did not account for the skills he displayed in his transformation into contract killer. Now in Moscow, he turns out to have had combat experience in the army. His family history and his social status in Moscow also take on more concrete attributes. At the same time, he his character remains a fantastic combination of cunning, ruthlessness, naivete, and innocence. Danila Bagrov cannot exist in any concrete social milieu; he exists in that space in which a society creates its national myths, ideals, and heroes. As Dawn Seckler has noted in her introduction to the film, the myths, ideals, and heroes of Brother 2 are very familiar ones to post-Soviet audiences.

Danila's mission to America is on one level the next logical step in his transformation into a positive hero for a new Russia. But the very structure of the film reflects the fact that Danila encounters an America that is already so interconnected with Russia that neither conflicts nor friendships nor triumphs nor failures can be seen simply as encounters with a foreign "other." Ideology continues to play its discursive role as characters attempt to express their loyalties to this or that country, land, or people. The plot of the film depends much more on personal loyalties and connections — specifically on the relationship between brothers, whether biological or metaphorical.

America and the Americans are neither a model for Russia to follow nor the enemy against which a nationalistic Russia defines itself. Danila's first taste of America is Brighton Beach, where "being Russian" or "being American" is a never-ending negotiation of resemblances and contrasts. Neither Viktor's comic crusade against the evil Ukrainians nor Danila's simplistic subordination of national loyalties in his campaign for "truth" can represent more than temporary tactics. It is only in the manipulation of identities and truths, both "theirs" and "ours," that Russia's new heroes will arrive at their destination. If Brother 2 makes any categorical statement at all, it is that the most urgent destination for Russia's new heroes must be "home."

Aleksei Balabanov

director photo

Aleksei Balabanov was born in Sverdlovsk on February 25, 1959. He made his directorial debut in 1989 with the documentary Egor and Nastia. His first feature film, Happy Days, was released in 1992 and won instant fame across Europe. Since then, he has directed seven films and is reportedly working on an eigth, the title of which is rumored to be The American. In recent articles on the director he is disparagingly labeled a Russian nationalist whose films have become increasingly anti-Western (read: anti-American). However, he is also championed as one of the best contemporary Russian directors whose films range from blockbuster hits to arthouse sensations. Balabanov presently works at STW Film Company in St. Petersburg, which he helped found in 1994 with producer Sergei Sel'ianov.

1992 Happy Days
1994 Castle
1995 Trofim from The Arrival of a Train
1997 Brother
1998 Of Freaks and Men
2000 Brother 2
2002 War
2002 The River

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