“Moscow is one big lottery. There you can hit the jackpot.”
Set in Moscow in the late 50s through the late 70s, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Moskva Slezam ne Verit) follows the lives of three Soviet women, Katerina “Katya” (Vera Alentova), Lyudmilla “Luida” (Irina Muravyova), and Antonina “Tonya” (Raisa Ryazanova). Originally from the provinces, the three girls now live in a Worker’s Dormitory and work in Moscow factories. The forceful, determined Luida says that Moscow is like a lottery and by that she means she intends to marry ‘up.’ Meanwhile, the quiet, simple Tonya steadily dates her regular boyfriend,Nikolai (Boris Smorchov) and Katya, the serious one of the trio, hopes to improve herself by getting into university.
Fate intervenes when Katya’s aunt and uncle go on holiday and leave their large, sumptuous flat and their Pekingese in her care. Luida sees this as a wonderful opportunity to entertain eligible men, and entertain she does, dragging Katya into her scheme. The two girls host parties for various men invited by Luida, and the crafty Luida passes herself (and Katya) off as professor’s daughters.
Luida’s scheme works and she manages to snare professional hockey player Gurin (Alexsandr Fatyushin) while Katya is drawn to television cameraman Rachkov (Yuri Vasilyev)….
The film then flashes forward to 1978 and picks up the trails of the three main female characters’ lives.
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is essentially a drama laced with comedy–albeit most of the amusement comes from the marvellous character of the indestructible Luida. While Tonya seeks the traditional role of wife and mother, Katya manages to fulfill her ambition to become an educated career woman, and the way the film bridges the time gap between Katya’s struggles and then her success–through the use of a deceptively simple scene involving an alarm clock–is pure brilliance.
Luida’s ambition was to move up in society through marriage, and she employed all means possible to achieve her goal. Essentially her plan goes awry and this is perhaps both a moral and a social statement.When the film picks up the story in 1978, we can see just how far the three women–now entering middle age–have gone with their lives. Some plans have worked and others are a miserable failure. But Luida–in spite of the dashing of her great hopes still indefatigably pursues her goal of catching a man.
The film explores the idea of the strong Russian woman, and the film’s title refers to the fact that the women will continue to plough on–in this case with or without men. Several of the scenes underscore the lack of eligible men available. At first, this is largely seen through Luida’s attempts to hook a man using artifice and clothes as social disguises (at one point, she begins dressing up as a student in order to haunt the university libraries for prey). But the idea that there’s a distinct lack of eligible men is still prevalent in 1978, when Katya visits a centre that is essentially a club for singles, so inundated with females that no more women are allowed to join.
The film has some nice little twists and turns. Katya’s first big mistake was to pretend to be something she wasn’t, and although she was pushed into this by the domineering Luida, Katya pays a great price for this error. Ironically just as she once deceived a man about the truth of her humble circumstances, when she meets Gosha (Aleksei Batalov) and falls in love, she hides the fact that she’s a successful engineer who runs a factory, and pretends she is a simple worker.
While the film includes many themes that are easily accessible–loneliness, career and personal sacrifice, relationships and ambition, there’s another fascinating facet to this film. American film often depicts its characters in conflict with the society in which they live. In Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, the characters are seem struggling but working harmoniously within society and not railing against it.
Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1981, and it’s easy to see why. With its universal, upbeat and optimistic themes, and its portrayal of everyday life in a frank, yet sympathetic manner, it’s readily accessible to a foreign audience. From director Vladimir Menshov