"Bureaucrat" by Sergei Eisenstein
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Leonid Zorin


Aleksei Petrovich Kirpichov, an honest, honored Old Bolshevik, is living in retirement in his neat little country house. He fusses with irritation as his wife, Vera Nikolaevna, urges him to put on a nice shirt and tie for their expected guests. Their son, Pyotr, who is a bigwig in Moscow and whom they haven't seen in years, is coming with his wife and teenage son.

Also present at the house are Varvara the Kirpichovs' 32-year-old, widowed daughter, and Sergei, 25, Pyotr's son from his first marriage.

Pavel Pavlovich Trubin, 40, a newspaper reporter, arrives. He was in the area and has come to see Sergei. During the war, Trubin wrote an article about Sergei who, at age 17, was one of the youngest soldiers at the front. Varvara catches Trubin's eye.

Sergei brings Trubin up to date on his life. His mother died shortly after the war. After his father, Pyotr, remarried, Sergei wasn't interested in returning to him, so he came to live here with his grandfather. Sergei's younger brother, Tyoma, stayed with Pyotr.

Sergei, who used to want to write literature, is now a teacher of literature.

Trubin asks about Aleksei's health...it isn't good. People of Trubin's generation revere the elder Kirpichov as a squeaky-clean Knight of the Revolution, Hero of the Five Year Plans.

Sergei isn't too happy about his father's impending visit. He notes sarcastically, "The province awaits the capital."

Trubin sheepishly admits that he has asked someone else to meet him here...a man who has asked for Trubin's advice. Sergei says that should be no problem. Trubin then asks to borrow 300 rubles, which he can repay in three days. Sergei has the money and agrees to loan it.

Sergei introduces Trubin to Vera. It turns out that Trubin is in town to write a story on a fancy new school that is opening up. Vera is the schoolmaster, and Sergei is to teach at the school.

Before meeting Aleksei, Trubin buttons his jacket, clears his throat, and checks his appearance in the mirror. Aleksei is gracious and wants Trubin to stay for lunch, so that Pyotr will know that he is in public.

Pyotr arrives in a private car, along with his wife, Nina Konstantinovna, his 19-year-old son, Tyoma, and Tyoma's ostensible girlfriend, Nika, who's also 19. Both Nina and Nika are wearing sunglasses, and Tyoma has a cap pulled over his forehead.

Pyotr gives a bear hug to his parents. Sergei offers Pyotr his hand, but Pyotr insists on a kiss.

Nina introduces herself to Sergei as the women on account of whom he did not return to his family. She says she wanted to meet him if only to prove that she wasn't some type of cobra.

Nika studies Sergei attentively and says she's surprised that Tyoma has a brother such as him.

Saying, "There's no escaping civilization," Pyotr apologizes and says that he will be receiving some business calls from Moscow. He explains, "My body's here; my head's there. Split personality.

Everyone except Pyotr and Nina go to unload the car. Pyotr says they should remind their driver, Nikolai, to take care of the car. Pyotr sneers that Nikolai is a bungler and slacker who won't lift a finger unless you tell him to.

Nina expresses irritation that Pyotr has waited seven years before introducing her to his parents.

Pyotr says he's at an age where he doesn't need his parents' approval. Besides, his parents aren't hung up on formalities. Aleksei met Vera in a transit prison, and they got married in Siberia. Aleksei had grown up an orphan and became a typesetter. Vera's parents--poor but noble--were outraged by the marriage.

Pyotr takes in the fresh air and quiet of the countryside. But still, he'd rather be in Moscow. However much trouble Moscow is, he says, it's calmer there. Besides, he continues, it's not the sort of historical moment to be in the countryside.

Nina feels a bit awkward that so many of them have come, crowding Aleksei and Vera. She notes that Nika didn't have to come. Pyotr says Tyoma is in love with her and that this could become a wonderful memory for him. Nina notes that Pyotr was more insistent on Nika coming than was Tyoma.

Tyoma and Nika have a smoke. Nika, seeming somewhat bored, makes comments stressing Tyoma's youth. She notes that Tyoma and Sergei are not at all alike. She then asks if Pyotr really loves Nina. Tyoma assures her that he does.

Nika goes off with Varvara to get settled in. Tyoma and Trubin chat as fellow Muscovites. Tyoma subtly brags about their apartment in a new building and their dacha outside of town. On the ride here today, Tyoma and the driver Nikolai got drunk.

Tyoma goes to get settled in his room.

A stooped gentleman in a threadbare coat arrives. This is Trubin's expected guest. He is Mikhail Aleksandrovich Pokrovsky, 55. Unknown to the men, Varvara is at a window and overhears as they converse.

Pokrovsky is a lawyer from Voronezh, where he worked as a public defender for thirty years. When another lawyer got sick, Pokrovsky was assigned to the defense team on the Shevtsova case. (Trubin has heard of the case and is greatly interested.) Pokrovsky was just getting his bearings in the case when he and two other lawyers were dismissed, charged with writing a letter to the defendants, advising them to choose a course of action which would mislead the court and place the investigation in doubt. It was impossible for Pokrovsky to have been involved in this matter, since he only got appointed to the case in January. This fact had no effect on his accusers, and he was dismissed from the public defenders office.

Pokrovsky appealed to a comrade Krasnoshchekov, from the Republic's ministry. But Krasnoshchekov said he saw no reason to reverse the decision. Pokrovsky then went to Moscow and managed to deliver a letter to Pyotr Kirpichov. (Pokrovsky doesn't know that he is at the Kirpichov house.) After a while, Pokrovsky received a letter from Pyotr advising him to appeal to comrade Krasnoshchekov.

As an aside, Pokrovsky says that from his limited investigation, it seems that the Shevtsova case was bungled from the start, not done at all according to the books.

Trubin offers to lend Pokrovsky some money, but Pokrovsky proudly refuses.

Trubin says he'll try to help Pokrovsky some how and promises to call him soon.

After Pokrovsky leaves, Trubin says he's heard of the Shevtsova case in a light very unflattering to the prosecutors.

Vera calls everyone in for lunch. Trubin dawdles a while on the terrace to finish a smoke. Varvara comes out and tells Trubin that she likes him.

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It is evening after tea. Everyone is gathered on the terrace. Tyoma is intently listening to a football match on the radio. Pyotr says whenever there is a match in Moscow, the office empties out and everyone goes to the stadium to root for Dynamo.

Tyoma says life in the countryside is boring. If they were in Moscow, he and Nika would be going to the "Loft" cafe for ice cream sundaes and wine right about now. Pyotr says that Tyoma is a wine expert, well know to all of the maitre ado's in the capital.

Everyone asks Nika, who is studying at the conservatory, to sing. Tyoma accompanies her on the piano as she sings a serenade of Ricardo Drigo.. All the listeners are moved by the singing. Nika is surprised and pleased about Sergei's approval.

Tyoma says that Trubin will now have to write a book about Nika, just as he wrote about Sergei. Pyotr edifyingly points out, "The press is a powerful force. It can raise you up, or trample you in the mud."

Pyotr goes on to complain that some members of the press are sensationalists, interested only in stirring up trouble, like a certain comrade Ptisyn about the Shevtsova case. Trubin says he knows Ptisyn to be one of the most upright reporters and the Shevtsova case to be a filthy case of arbitrariness . Trubin charges that some of Pyotr's colleagues are more interested in keeping their reputations clean than about a person's fate.

Pyotr scoffs at the mention of "a person's fate". He points out, "There are different sorts of people."

Aleksei says this reminds him a story from his career, back in 1918. Pyotr is irritated, but Aleksei goes on to relate the story: A certain inventor and ex-general was under arrest and his case was dragging out for an extraordinarily long time. Aleksei looked into the matter and determined that the man was completely decent and honest. So Aleksei ordered him to be released. Some time later, however, Aleksei finds that the man is still in custody. Aleksei called in a certain Grainin and asked why his order had not been carried out. Granin smugly answered, "We find it inexpedient. To find him innocent would undermine our prestige." Aleksei was furious. He pulled out his pistol and almost shot Granin, but someone pulled his hand away at the last second. To this day, Aleksei is sorry he didn't shoot him.

Most of the guests go off to play volleyball, leaving Pyotr alone with Nika. Pyotr embraces Nika, but she frees herself from him. Pyotr says that Nika should marry Tyoma. He's a smart lad, Pyotr contends, but somehow just keeps missing the mark. Tyoma lacks backbone. Nika asks if he's hiring her as a backbone for his son. Pyotr laughingly agrees with the characterization.

Pyotr strokes Nika and says he has tender eyes for her. But at the office, people are afraid of him, a trait which helps him get things done.

Nina returns and pointedly insists that Pyotr go play volleyball.

Nina tells Nika that she's noticed that Pyotr has gotten clumsy. However, Nina goes on, for a woman her age, sometimes it's more important not to notice. If she had been noticing, she hardly would have become Pyotr's wife.

Nina notes that Nika is young and beautiful. She only hopes that it doesn't ruin Nika.

Nika exits, Pyotr returns. Nina tells him that she won't get in his way if he is looking for some diversion. After all, his attention isn't so important to her anymore.

Pyotr says that Sergei has asked him to meet with Pokrovsky. Pyotr is familiar with the case and says that he'll have to set Krasnoshchekov straight. Although others have characterized Krasnoshchekov as a man with a future, Pyotr calls him a damned snake. It was Krasnoshchekov who came to Pyotr for support on the Shevtsova case. But Pyotr is sure that Krasnoshchekov will try to lay all the blame on him.

Pyotr ponders:
"It's a tough thing, a position of responsibility. It has its own morals, its own code. You want to be kind, soft--but it won't let you, no. The state machinery--it's an orchestra, you know. You want to play, follow the baton. Fall into rhythm."

Nina leaves, and Pyotr has a conversation with Sergei. Sergei is angry that Pyotr was a womanizer, cheating on his first wife. Pyotr confesses some guilt on that point, but implies that Sergei's mother was also partly to blame.

Pyotr says that it's not good for Sergei to stay with Aleksei. The elder Kirpichov is a great name, to be sure, but he's eccentric, unapproachable, withdrawn from real meaningful affairs. Aleksei is a man of another time, Pyotr contends, while life goes on, forming new content, new forms, new relations.

Sergei dryly responds, "Our goals are the same as in 1917, I would think."

Sergei then asks if Pyotr will meet with Pokrovsky. Pyotr dismisses Pokrovsky and all lawyers as swindlers, unprincipled people. Nevertheless, he agrees to hear Pokrovsky out.

Sergei brings in Pokrovsky, who humbly states his case. He doesn't blame Krasnoshchekov, saying merely that he was probably misled. Pyotr promises to look into the case and to correct any mistakes that might have been made.

Pokrovsky is excited and tells Trubin and Sergei about what Pyotr said; then he hurries away to tell his sick wife. Trubin scoffs, realizing that all Pyotr did was make empty promises. Sergei, wanting to believe in his father's good intentions, argues with Trubin, calling him cynical. Trubin calls Sergei a fool. Sergei storms off.

Varvara tells Trubin that she agrees with his assessment of Pyotr's intentions. She also says that although she loves her father and this house very much, she will leave soon because it has become difficult for her to breathe here.

Trubin expresses surprise that Varvara never remarried, that no man has chosen her as a wife. She responds, "I see you also think it's only men who choose. A common misconception."

Varvara had a wonderful husband, who died in the war in Berlin. She has suitors, but she has never remarried because she knows how wonderful marriage can be. She likes her job, but her life is not easy. She has a friend, also a widow, with three children--she's also very busy, but you don't hear her complain either. In fact, none of her friends complain about having too much work. Trubin realizes that his friends are the same way. Then Varvara notes:

"It's always seems to me that in the kind of life where the main thing isn't your work but your position, not your accomplishment but your consumption; in the uninspired, dull, self-satisfied life so different from the one that I and millions like me live--there's something foreign and insulting."

Trubin adds that people of this "high society" arise:

"From vulgarity, greed, aggression. From their bankruptcy and our patient patience. When you give a lot to someone you can't expect much from, these kinds of metamorphoses occur."

Trubin and Varvara exchange a look and kiss. Trubin then leaves just as Pyotr enters.

Pyotr advises Varvara to stay away from Trubin, whom he calls a puppeteer, hiding behind a screen as he makes others dance.

Claiming to be concerned only for Aleksei's heath and peace, Pyotr seeks Varvara's help in preventing any journalists and "twits" (i.e., Trubin and Pokrovsky) from bothering their father. Varvara is clearly disgusted and lets Pyotr know she doesn't want to breath the same air as him.

Shortly thereafter, Varvara blurts out to Aleksei that Pyotr is a worthless fellow who just turned away a wronged man seeking justice. She then apologizes for giving Aleksei this painful news. Aleksei says he's already heard some disturbing things about Pyotr.

Aleksei tells Varvara that he wants to see Pokrovsky personally.

Tyoma is following Nika, who is in a bad mood. Tyoma recalls that before they left Moscow he told friends that Nika was coming with him on this trip. His friends jokingly offered condolences, saying that Tyoma was "rushing into the jaws of a tigress."

Nika is annoyed that Tyoma blabbed to his friends about her. Tyoma doesn't understand her anger. He asks, "Is it supposed to be a secret? Are we going to get married in secret, too?" This infuriates Nika who says they will never get married.
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Pyotr tells Tyoma and Nina that they will leave soon. Tyoma is glad to hear this. And, by the way, Tyoma wants to know when he'll get a car. Recognizing that Tyoma comes by things too easily, Pyotr nevertheless promises to get him a car.

Nina complains that Pyotr spends too much money. Pyotr agrees to cut back a little.


At night, neither Nina nor Pyotr can sleep, so they go out into the terrace. The light is still on in Aleksei's room.

Pyotr calls Varvara a flake. Nina agrees that their visit hasn't come off too well. Pyotr says that the main thing is that they have to leave on good terms with Aleksei--after all, the old man is still a respected, powerful name.

Aware of the commotion over the Shevtsova case, Nina cautiously asks Pyotr if he acted reasonably in the case. Pyotr corrects her: "The local authorities acted. I...expressed my opinion." He admits that possibly there were some infractions. But what upsets Pyotr is that those he trusted--like Krasnoshchekov--might turn on him.

Hoping for the best, Nina says being smart doesn't mean not making mistakes, it means admitting them. Pyotr says, no, not "admitting", but "correcting" mistakes. A subtle but important difference.

Nina and Pyotr return to their room. Varvara and Trubin enter. They have been having a romantic walk through all the streets and alleys of the town. They only took a detour to the telephone exchange so that Trubin could call Ptisyn and call his office to get permission to go to Voronezh and look further into the Shevtsova matter. Trubin and Varvara kiss.

Someone approaches, and Trubin hides in the shadows. It's Nika. She tells Varvara that she wants to leave, but not with Tyoma and his family. Varvara promises to help her get the money for a train ticket.

Nika exits and Vera enters. She tells Varvara that, unknown to Pyotr, Aleksei's been locked in his room for four hours with Pokrovsky.

Vera exits and Sergei enters. He tells Trubin about Aleksei's meeting with Pokrovsky. He wonders what his grandfather is talking about. Trubin notes, "He knows how to listen as well as talk."

The telephone rings. It is a call from Moscow for Pyotr. Varvara, Trubin, and Sergei hide in the shadows and eavesdrop as Pyotr speaks to the caller. It is his subordinate calling with good news: they've gotten Krasnoshchekov promoted and transferred from the regional level to their department, so they're all under one roof. Pyotr gives orders for his subordinate to "finish off" the Pokrovsky matter once and for all.

After Pyotr hangs up, Sergei angrily confronts him. Despite his better instincts, Sergei had been hoping that Pyotr would have proven himself human. Pyotr demands to know on whose "orders" Sergei was spying on him. Sergei says, "I don't believe your anger, your indignation, your peasant-worker accent. It's a game! I only believe in your spite."

Aleksei appears. He, too, has overheard the conversation. He orders Pyotr to leave in the morning and never come back...banished! Aleksei says:

"A minute ago you crushed a man, offhandedly, without stopping even a minute to think. You trampled his future without even batting an eyelash."

Aleksei mournfully notes that how Pyotr turned out is his and Vera's fault:

"I became, as they say, a big man; what in our life--in hers, in mine--changed? Nothing. We started working more. The blessings--they fell to you. I thought that was how it was supposed to be--we got the thunderstorms, but then he gets the sun. I was given various honors--I wasn't able to receive them on account of work; they all came to you. People ingratiated themselves before you; you liked that....

"I was just working for the good of our land; I worked and never thought about how power smells, but you experienced its taste from childhood, and its poisoned you....

"Up close, we got in your way, your mother and I, but farther away we were even useful. You know, all your life I propped you up, unseen, all your life I made your resume, thanks to no small number of blockheads in love with paperwork."

Pyotr says Aleksei is a blind old man, denouncing his only son over some "shady character" like Pokrovsky. Aleksei asks why Pyotr didn't tell Pokrovsky what he thought of him to his face. Pyotr responds, "In my position, you don't tell people to their face."

Aleksei flings open a door, revealing Pokrovsky. He pleadingly asks Pyotr why he treated him so unkindly. Pyotr refuses to speak to him. Pokrovsky gets angry and pronounces:

"I wont stand for it. I am a citizen of my country. And the point isn't me, a provincial lawyer. The point is the law of that country, its essence. You just about wrecked me, damn you. There were moments when I felt like throwing it all to hell. So there wouldn't be any more traipsing around, meetings, sniveling, guilty smile. But now it's clear to me: I don't have that right. I'm not the point. I have to keep struggling."

Pyotr tells Aleksei that this is all too much. Not only is he Aleksei's son, but he's a Communist, too. Sergei and Aleksei scoff saying that that Pyotr, with his high style of living, is no true Communist. Aleksei says:

"People are unimportant to you, unnecessary. You know the words: the Party, the people, communism. But what do you care about the Party? What do you care about the people? About communism? What do you care that our whole path is behind these words...? What do you care about the 20 million buried during the war? For you, it's just words....
"At the bottom of your soul there's only ambition and...ashes. Nothing else is left. ...

"No matter how much you roar or play games or disguise yourself as a man of principle, no one will believe you, no one. A lot of arrogant careerists have tried to pontificate in our name. Where are they now? Who remembers them?"

Vera, Pyotr's mother, is pained, but even she turns her back on him.

Sergei declares war on his father:

"And wherever I met you, in any office, any chair, however you look, whatever you call yourself, whatever your name is, I'll recognize you right away and fight you to the death. You hear? I'll fight you to the death."

Trubin promises to come visit Pyotr in Moscow so they can get down to the big, unmerciful truth..

Pyotr coldly tells Trubin that the Pokrovsky case is closed and that he would be foolish to pursue it.

Trubin, however, merrily notes that dawn is just breaking, bringing with it today's newspapers with Ptisyn's new article on the Shevtsova and Krasnoshchekov cases.



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