Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is a classic, Oscar-winning Soviet movie. It’s said to depict the famous Russian soul better than any other movie.
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Москва слезам не верит / Moskva slezam ne verit) is one of the most beloved Soviet films of all time. Made in 1980, it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film the following year. The film is directed by Vladimir Menshov and stars his wife, Vera Alentova, in the leading role – Katerina.
The film tells the life stories of Katerina and two of her friends. We get to experience their dreams, wishes, and disillusions. And, of course, in this romantic drama, we see how and whom they love.
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is often said to be the movie that best depicts the famous Russian soul. In fact, according to Russian newspaper, Kommersant, American President Ronald Reagan watched the movie “at least eight times” before he first met then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. All that to better understand his Russian counterpart. All that to better understand the “russkaya dusha” (русская душа).
A 19-year-old provincial girl, Katerina arrives in Moscow full of hope and optimism. She starts out living in a boarding house with her two friends, Lyudmila and Antonina. At this time, Katerina is a chemistry student and works part time in a factory.
When Katerina house sits for some relatives, Lyudmila convinces her to throw a dinner to meet some successful young men. And so, the girls organize a dinner party and pretend they are the daughters of Katerina’s relative, a famous professor.
At the party, Lyudmila partners up with a professional hockey player. They get married, even when he finds out she lied about who she was. Meanwhile, after the party Katerina starts dating Rodion, a hotshot cameraman for a TV station. However, when he finds out that she deceived him about being the daughter of a professor, he breaks things off. He leaves her, though she is already pregnant with their child.
Fast forward 20 years and we meet Katerina again. She is single and lives with her daughter, Aleksandra. Katerina has had quite the career. She is now the executive director of the same factory – a well-respected position. However, it’s clear she holds within her a deep sadness and longing for something more.
One evening returning from her friend, Antonina’s dacha, Katerina meets a man in the train. The man, Gosha (Aleksey Batalov), looks a bit shabby and is somewhat too insistent on pressing for a conversation with her. On top of that, he makes some off-color comments, like how he thinks a woman should not earn more than her husband. he Eventually, Katerina relents – the ice of mistrust melts in her soul and she sees that Gosha could be what she needs.
Meanwhile, back in the factory she manages, Katerina happens to meet Rodion again. He’s back to film another TV report on the factory exceeding expectations. Learning that he has a daughter, he asks to meet her, but Katerina tells him she does not want to see him again.
Nevertheless, Rodion comes to Katerina’s house uninvited while she is having dinner with Gosha and Aleksandra. Rodion shares the interview he had with Katerina as the head of her factory – something Gosha did not know about. In a huff at Katerina’s deception and higher salary, Gosha leaves angrily. Katerina then reveals to Aleksandra that Rodion is her father.
After Gosha’s exit, Katerina is distraught. Her friends try to comfort her, but she is still beside herself.
At the same time, Gosha is getting blind drunk. However, his friend, Nikolai, convinces him to return to Katerina. Back together, while Gosha munches away on some food, Katerina whispers,
“I have been looking for you for so long” (“как долго я тебя искала”).
When Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears was first released, it received lackluster reviews from film critics. The industry first viewed it as a cheap rom-com. However, the reception of Soviet audiences and foreign film festivals was very different.
The film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and was also nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. It also became the second most watched film in the Soviet Union that year. In the Soviet Union, the film received 90 million viewers – the second highest box office numbers that year after Pirates of the 20th Century.
Subsequently, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears’s director, Vladimir Menshov was awarded the USSR State Prize in 1981.