I Am Twenty
I Am Twenty
Marlen Khutsiyev / SUHH, 1962 / 170 min.
A coming-of-age-drama set in early Moscow in the early 1960s . Three young men pass their days wandering through the city. Soviet leader Khrushchev saw a preview of the film and was not amused.
I Am Twenty follows three young men on the brink of adulthood who pass their days sauntering through Moscow. They have no great ambitions, nor do they experience anything big. In its portrayal of the futility and absurdity of life, I Am Twenty is part of a wave of similar European films of the early 1960s. The film was largely shot on location in the streets of Moscow.
A first version was completed in 1962 and carried the title Ilyich's Gate, but its release was delayed because party leader Khrushchev had criticized the film at a preview. He particularly objected to a dream sequence in which one of the characters is visited by his father, who died at the front. The Soviet hero is unable to advise his son on how to lead a fulfilling life.
A casualty of censorship, the film was only released to the cinemas in 1965, with a new montage and a new title, I Am Twenty. The film nevertheless remained controversial in the Soviet Union. Eye acquired a 35mm print for its collection in the late 1980s.
Director Marlen Khutsiev belongs to the generation of filmmakers who graduated from Moscow’s VGIK film school in the early 1950s. He co-wrote the film with the younger Gennady Shpalikov, who a few years later would write the script for Walking the Streets of Moscow, a film also screened as part of this programme.
Russia, 2021: in the wake of Putin’s latest election victory, reforms seem further away than ever. How different things were in the late 1950s, when Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union’s new leader following the death of Stalin, gave an impulse for change. This period, which came to be known as the ‘thaw’, gave rise to classics such as Ballad of a Soldier (1959, Grigorii Chukhrai) and The Cranes Are Flying (1957, Michail Kalatozov); a new generation of filmmakers (Tarkovsky, Shepitko) also stepped into the spotlight.