As I kid, I used to watch this movie all the time, without understanding anything. I rediscovered it in my 20s, and was surprised just by how much my view of it changed. And I wasn’t even into the manosphere back then.
Some people would probably find feminist morals in the movie. But I think it’s a pretty good red pill movie, and will explain how. It’s full of fun moments about bad boy attraction, nice guy unattraction, friendship between men and women being impossible, objectification of women, attempted killing sprees and everyone’s general lack of sympathy for beta males. Enjoy! 😀 If you feel like watching it, it is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfjFnOpnh_c Don’t be intimidated by its 2h+ length or the costume-drama-like appearance. It’s worth it 😉 (You have to go to Youtube to watch it)
The action is set in the late 19th century Russia. The main character, Larisa, is a poor (yet high class) young woman. Her mother is trying really hard to get her married to someone and end their money problems. She already married two daughters, but it’s been hard because they are poor and have no dowry.
Several men like Larisa. One of them is a rich older man named Mokiy Parmyonych Knurov. He keeps giving gifts and seems to enjoy spending money on her, but since he is married, he is not seen as a potential husband.
Another is a not terribly rich office worker named Yuliy Kapitonovich Karandyshev. He is proud of his self-perceived good character. At one point, he even asks Larisa why women prefer bad men over virtuous men.
Another is Larisa’s childhood friend, Vasiliy Danilovich Vozhevatov. I personally wouldn’t say his feelings for her were all that warm, but he was at least a friend and seemed to care for her well-being.
The third man is rich, daring, good shot, can play guitar, sing and dance. He arrives late to her sister’s wedding on a horse, AMOGs (ahem… out-alphas and cockblocks) all Larisa’s potential suitors, licks jam off her hand and does a lot of other fun stuff. It’s probably not hard to guess which man she ends up falling for.
He gives her an expensive necklace, and invites her on his personal boat. Then, instead of taking things to the next logical level and proposing, he suddenly disappears and is not heard from for a very long time. Larisa is heartbroken. Not only did her love run away, but he also chased away any men who were interested in her. And still no one wants to marry her without dowry. After a long time of waiting and a humiliating incident with another suitor, she decides to marry the first man who asks. And of course, the man who was always waiting for her was none other than Yuliy Karandyshev.
Yuliy is very happy about finally getting the girl he always dreamt of. However, it soon becomes clear that she is only using him as a drowning person grasps at a straw. She admits that she doesn’t yet love him, but sincerely wants to give him a try. She does, however, appreciate his genuine love for her, and the escape from humiliation and drama that he provides, and asks for emotional support.
Unfortunately, Yuliy has a bit of a self-esteem problem. Now that he has Larisa, a girl everyone told him was out of his league, he won’t miss the chance to show her off. He wants to prove to the “jerks” that he, a “good guy”, won and they lost. He wants to show that he was chosen for his virtues, and not just settled for, after dating jerks didn’t work out. He wants revenge for all the times they have dismissed and laughed at him. He wants to do it by inviting them all to a dinner party and then proposing a toast for his bride, where he thanks her for appreciating his virtues. He wants to do it, even though he knows it’s not why she picked him.
Larisa is not thrilled. She feels used. She feels like he, just like the others, wants to play with her and toss her away. Ironically, both parties are using each other, but fail to understand each other’s emotional needs. Larisa uses Yuliy to run away from the people she used to hang out with, while Yuliy uses Larisa to impress the people he hates. Still, Yuliy goes through with his plan and invites these people to the dinner party. At the same time, Larisa’s old crush Paratov shows up in town. This shakes Larisa, and she insists on abandoning the dinner plan, and running away to the country. She says she fears for her fiancé’s safety, but it feels as if she is more afraid of digging up old emotions.
Paratov meets his old friends, Knurov and Vasiliy Vozhevatov. It appears Paratov lost/gambled away his riches, and is planning to marry a rich woman to escape poverty. He invites his old friends to a bachelor party. They would rather have a fun party with Paratov than a boring party with Karandyshev, but can’t decline the earlier invitation. Paratov finds out that Larisa is getting married to Karandyshev. This is sad news to him. He goes to see her. There, he does his best to bring back old memories, and then criticizes Larisa for not waiting for him. It is ironic, since it was him who suddenly disappeared and didn’t write. However, she falls for his skillful re-framing of blame, and even admits that she’s still in love with him.
At this point, Yuliy walks in. His jealousy has been slowly increasing since the beginning of the engagement with Larisa. He is not wrong to feel jealous – his bride is indeed out of his league, and Paratov is still hotter than him. However, he digs his own grave by displaying insecure jealousy and trying to passive-aggressively insult Sergey Paratov. It back-fires when Sergey Paratov calls him out on it and Yuliy is forced to invite him to his dinner party as a form of reconciliation.
Sergey Paratov has not forgiven Yuliy for his little attack though, and wants to take brutal revenge. Him and a few friends bring fake wine to the party. They give it to Yuliy, who ends up drunk and incoherent. This humiliates him and Larisa. It pretty much kills any affection she could have had for him. It also apparently kills her consideration for his humanity.
Sergey Paratov, having completely squashes his already weak competition (seriously, it was overkill), approaches Larisa. She is finally ready to run away from her fiancé. Sergey Paratov convinces her that he loves her and will be hers if she runs away with him. She goes for it. The and all the dinner guests run off to Sergey’s boat and party all night. Sergey succeeds with his seduction and gets laid.
Yuliy Karandyshev notices that all his guests are gone. He also notices his bride is gone. The servant tells him they ran away to Sergey’s boat. He immediately turns sober upon the realization that he has been tricked and betrayed. Then he gives one of my favorite movie speeches. He is forced to admit he is ridiculous and laughable to people. He admits it, but doesn’t understand how ridiculousness warrants emotional torture and cruelty. Unsurprisingly, no one cares or feels sorry for him.
Sadness turns to murderous rage. He grabs a gun off the wall and decides to kill everyone who humiliated him. He runs towards the boat. He catches up to it in the morning and gets on.
The same morning, Sergey Paratov’s rationality returns to him. He realizes he can’t marry Larisa, even though he already had sex with her. He tries to avoid looking like a jerk by saying he was blinded by love/dreams, and forgot that he can’t break off the engagement with the other woman. This breaks Larisa’s heart all over again. Sergey almost cries with her. Does he mean this expression of sadness? Was he honest when he said he was too blinded by happy feelings to think of the consequences, or is it all crocodile tears? Hard to tell. Most of the movie, he seems ruthless and governed by personal gain only. He praises honesty in one minute and admits there is nothing holy in another. But even players sometimes feel awful when they end up breaking their “toys”.
The two merchant friends (Knurov and Vasiliy Vozhevatov) realize Larisa lost her virtue and might not mind being saved from disgrace by becoming their mistress. They toss a coin for whom will “take her to Paris”. The older merchant, Knurov, wins. The younger merchant, who is also Larisa’s old friend, promises he won’t interfere with their relationship. Yuliy ends up overhearing this conversation, and is appalled by their objectifying ways.
Larisa meets Vasiliy and asks him for some pity. But he has given his merchant’s word, and informs her that he is bound by it and can’t offer her any help. And thus it turns out that he is not her friend at all. Of all the people, this is the guy I hate the most.
The older merchant informs Larisa of the possibility of becoming his mistress. He promises she will be supported for life and his wealth and reputation would eclipse any bad reputation she might gain from this. Of all the characters, this one seems most honest right from the start, and his motives are always relatively obvious. However, she says no to his offer. The betrayal of her love and her friend are powerful, and she starts to think of suicide.
While she is alone, contemplating her fate, Yuliy shows up. He tells her he came to avenge her. He tells her how her “friends” tossed a coin for who would have her, and treated her as an object. He asks her how she doesn’t find this insulting. She shocks him by saying his protection of her is way more insulting. She’s so depressed she agrees that she is an object, and every object needs an owner. She would rather be Knurov’s object than Karandyshev’s wife.
Yuliy sees that he’s losing her and has no arguments for keeping her anymore, so he resorts to pathetic pleading and love declarations, as well as physically grabbing her. He tells her he forgives her for everything she did. She fights him and screams that everyone, including him, look at her like an object. If she must be an object, she will only be a rich man’s object.
She breaks free and runs away. He says “If I can’t have you, no one will” and shoots her. Immediately, he regrets it. All the men who contributed to her ruin observe her and she stumbles around and looks at them through the window, hopefully making them feel guilty for the rest of their lives. She falls down, whispers “Thank you” and dies. It seems she was not angry at Yuliy for killing her, as all he did was end her misery.
Would Larisa have had a better life if she lived today?
In some ways, I feel a feminist streak in the movie. Today, Larisa would have simply had an education and a job, and wouldn’t have to marry a man for money. Like most people’s jobs, hers probably wouldn’t have been glamorous, but it wouldn’t have been a bad living. She would live in a small apartment instead of a large 19th century house, and wouldn’t have any servants. Instead of impressing men and people she doesn’t like at home, she would have to impress people she doesn’t like at work. Unless we’re left with an inheritance or win a lottery, we always have to impress someone to get our money and make a living.
Larisa is an impractical, sensitive, romantic 19th century girl. Would she have been more down to earth and less vulnerable in the 21st century? I don’t know. Even modern people watch Disney movies, and await their Prince Charming (for women) and the One (for men). I don’t know about you, but education did nothing to prepare me for my first love.
Larisa was also, in some ways, used to luxury. In 21st century, she probably wouldn’t have such an opportunity, unless she was impractical by nature and abused her credit cards the best she could.
Modernity doesn’t protect us from falling for the wrong people. It doesn’t protect us from being pumped and dumped. People still commit suicide over their broken hearts, and people get killed by jealous exes. Some people never find love. However, Larisa would probably not be slut-shamed for losing her virginity to a jerk. Unless she got killed or committed suicide, her life would go on, without having to become a rich man’s mistress to avoid rumor-spreaders.
She would still have to deal with objectifying men, clingy nice guys and cads.
So, the answer to the question “Would Larisa have had a better life if she lived today?”is yes and no. In some ways, it would be better. In other ways, it would have been the same.