Doctor Ivens’s Silence

[молчание доктора ивенса]

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USSR, Mosfilm, 1973, 83 min., color
Director: Budimir Metal'nikov
Screenplay: Budimir Metal'nikov
Camera: Yuri Bondarev
With: Sergei Bondarchuk, Zhanna Bolotova, Irina Skobtseva, Leonid Obolensky, I. Kuznetsov, Boris Romanov

Dr. Martin Ivens, a well-known Western specialist, has dedicated his life to discovering the "secret" of the aging process. His scientific quest is rendered existential when he is saved from a fiery plane crash by an expedition of enlightened aliens from Orion. Before returning to Earth, the aliens, whose leader is an unblinking celestial eye, engage Dr. Ivens in a cultural exchange of sorts. The doctor discovers via his conversations with the sexy female alien, Oranta, that the aliens have achieved such moral heights that they are immune to the pitfalls of human existence: early death and armed conflict.

Troubled by the incongruity between humanity's willingness to develop weapons of mass destruction and the enlightenment needed to conquer the "mortal coil," Dr. Ivens resigns from the university and discontinues his research. Meanwhile, Oranta, whose interest in spreading the knowledge of her people does not preclude her interest in Dr. Ivens's "heavenly" body, decides to visit Earth. Ivens, by this time, has been attracting the attention of the secret police, who follow Oranta and the doctor as they leave town at the end of the film.

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Doctor Ivens's Silence constructs the West as a space that suffers from a kind of barbaric multiplicity. The West/Earth is not governed by Primary Law, the code that governs and consolidates the whole of the Orion community. Instead, the West/Earth in the film is rife with social and political tension due to the variety of laws, religions, languages, etc., that devolve into petty squabbling and thoughtless destruction. This reactionary West/Earth feels threatened by Orion's highly moral, progressive philosophy, as the aliens may align themselves with the Communist cause. Indeed, the West/Earth rejects the "celestial" eye and opts for a kind of deliberate blindness; an unwillingness to "see" that leads to the film's tragic end and ensures Dr. Ivens's titular silence.

Budimir Metal'nikov

Budimir Metal'nikov was born on September 27, 1925 in Moscow. The majority of his professional career has been devoted to writing screenplays for films from the mid-1950's through the early 1990's. Metal'nikov directed House and Master (1968) and wrote and directed Doctor Ivens's Silence (1973).

Filmography as Director and Screenwriter

1967 House and Master
1973 Doctor Ivens's Silence

Filmography as Screenwriter

1956 Steep Hills
1959 Our Father's House
1960 A Simple Story
1960 Alyosha's Love
1966 Women
1968 The Prosecutor
1969 Tchaikovsky
1971 Tell Me About Yourself
1981 Thrice About Love
1982 Hope and Support
1984 Still Waters Run Deep
1985 The Field Guards of Muzzhukin
1985 Misty Shores
1987 The End of Eternity
1993 Internal Enemy

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