The Book Stealers

[Похитители книг]

The Book Stealers film still

Russia, Pygmalion Productions, 2003, 96 minutes, Color
In Russian with English subtitles
Director: Leonid Rybakov
Screenplay: Leonid Rybakov
Camera: Eduard Moshkovich
Soundtrack: rock group Mumiy-Troll
With: Yulia Agafonova, Marina Oryol, Evgenii Sergeev, Maksim Maksot, Kseniia Belaia, Ramil Sabitov, Andrei Fomin.

The heroine of the film, Catherine, posts a personal ad in the newspaper: “I am dying from boredom. Help! Twelve noon sharp under the clock. Catherine.” Three soul mates respond to the message: Rita-the-hairdresser, Sasha-the-boxer, and Pasha-the-rich-kid. Rita, Sasha, and Pasha also serve as Catherine’s guardian angels: as an angel of love, an angel of hope, and an angel of silence, respectively. With the assistance of these magical helpers, Catherine can take care of her essentials (her hair, her basic safety, and her finances), which will initiate her journey around the urban fantasyland. Like any narrative journey, this trip is motivated by the protagonist’s desire and the immediate lack of an object of such a desire. Catherine lacks a story, and she and her friends steal books in search of the perfect one. The characters abduct books, drive around the city in a white and red convertible, and in the course of their adventures find romance.

The Book Stealers combines masterful camerawork, MTV-style montage, a musical-clip-inspired urban mise-en-scene, and Mumiy-Troll songs. If one looks for film’s narrative dominanta, it is not the image but the soundtrack. Il’ia Lagutenko’s songs connect the clips-shards of characters’ adventures. It is not a coincidence that the film begins and ends on the sound stage where the group records its songs.

The Book Stealers could easily be renamed into The Film Stealers. The characters-thieves shamelessly name for us the stars and filmmakers whom the film crew incorporates into the film. Vera Kholodnaia and Jean Luc Godard open the endless list of references and allusions to cinematic styles. If one believes that cinematic experience is similar to dreaming, The Book Stealers is Rybakov’s big sleep debut.

Leonid Rybakov

Leonid Rybakov photo

Before he became a filmmaker and scriptwriter, Leonid Rybakov (b. 1959) pursued the career of a nuclear physicist. He holds degrees from Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (1983) and from the State Filmmaking Institute (Vladimir Naumov’s Workshop, 1991). In 1993 his short Marakut’s Diploma received a film critics’ award from Russian film studies journal Kinovedcheskie zapiski. In 1998 Rybakov collaborated with Petr Lutsik on the film The Outskirts (1998). In 1999 Rybakov wrote a screenplay for the animation feature Three Suns (currently in production at FAF INTERTEIMENT Studio). He also authored screenplays “Violence” and “The Book Stealers.”

1993 Marakut’s Diploma
2001 The Book Stealers
2004: Prophets and Gains Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers STW [СТВ] Film Company Pygmalion Productions NTV-Profit Film Company

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