“Is the rubbish bin your idea of a love nest?”
The Confidant (AKA Slushatel) is a Russian comedy from writer/director Vladimir Zajkin. The CEO of a large Moscow company, Sergei Petrov (Nikita Vysotsky) returns unexpectedly to the office to find his glamourous wife in a compromising position on her desk with an employee. The wife doesn’t lose a beat–and this results in Petrov’s total public humiliation–and he also loses his wife (perhaps not a tragic event), his company, and his self-respect in one foul swoop. Now unemployed, depressed and morose, Petrov meets up with an old school friend Kulema (Mikhail Yefremov). Whereas Petrov’s life (up until the divorce) has been a model of success, Kulema has chosen to lead an entirely different life on the fringes of society.
After hitting rock bottom, Petrov decides to step back into society and apply for work. Kulema is amazed when Petrov lands a seemingly wonderful job that includes meals, board, and 5,000 rubles a week. He moves in with a middle class family and his job is to be a “listener.” While the job sounds like a dream, the reality is a nightmare. Basically, Petrov’s job is to absorb all the family’s frustrations and anger, and in this function, the family can communicate with each pleasantly and rationally while Petrov absorbs all the domestic unpleasantness. Father (Yevgeny Steblov) is a frustrated inventor, mother (Natalya Kolyakanova) is struggling–amongst other things–with her husband’s adultery, the disgruntled adult daughter (Lyubov Tolkalina) has just moved back home, and the bratty son (Gleb Bauer) is appallingly rude.
In one scene, Petrov, who hasn’t yet fully grasped the ramifications of his employment, tries to sit around the dinner table and eat with the family. The family members verbally and physically abuse Petrov while they treat each other perfectly normally and politely. These scenes set a discordant, disturbing note, and Russian comedy is certainly different from Western. Nonetheless, like all good comedies, The Confidant makes a larger statement about the pain of the human condition while stirring laughs at the protagonist along the way. The cuckold is a universally popular stock character for comedy, and Petrov fits the mold. He’s a nice man–a bit too nice–and immensely taken advantage of until he gains the mental stamina to fight back. In Russian with English subtitles.