The Irony of Fate – Russia and the former Soviet Union’s favorite New Year’s movie!
The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! / Ironiya sudby, ili S lyogkim parom!) is a classic Soviet rom-com directed by Eldar Ryazanov in 1975. The movie is one of the most successful Soviet film productions ever. To this day, tens of millions of Russians tune in to rewatch it every New Year’s Eve.
Ryazanov was a prolific director with a keen eye for both change and tradition. In The Irony of Fate, he grasped how the emerging standardization of the life of Soviet citizens was smearing a darkly comic mark on the landscape of everyday life. And in both that film and his earlier hit, Carnival Night, he recognized the magic and importance of New Year’s to all Russians.
And so, his masterpiece, The Irony of Fate, appeals to this day not only as an enduring love-story, but also as a relic of a time gone-by. It’s really a wonderful movie and well worth the watch!
Consider including the Irony of Fate into your yuletide traditions. And if you just want to get Russians better, definitely watch it. As the Russian writer, Olga Fedina, has said, The Irony of Fate is a “perfect Soviet Christmas fairy tale” that “unites Russia for a few hours every year.”
The film’s main character is the quite lovable loser, Zhenya. An agreeable doctor in his mid-thirties, he lives with his mother in Moscow. Finally, he’s gotten engaged to a girl. However, he’s rather afraid of her and it’s just abundantly clear that they’re wrong for each other.
Anyhow, it’s New Year’s Eve, and so Zhenya hits the bathhouse – the “banya” – with his friends for their annual tradition. After getting a good steam in, they get drunk out of their minds. Still at the bathhouse, draped in loose, white robes, you feel jealous watching them and wish you could be there.
After the bathhouse, the friends are still so drunk that they forget which one of them is supposed to catch a flight to Leningrad. At the airport, they almost figure out which one of them is supposed to go, but they end up incorrectly putting – you guessed it – Zhenya on the plane.
Not that Zhenya knows. He’s passed out, and when he does get to Leningrad, he simply leaves the aiport and gets a cab. He gives the driver his address and continues on his merry, drunken way.
And here’s where the hilarious premise of the movie kicks in. During this time in the Soviet Union, a new wave of construction was taking place and every building seemed to be starting to look just like all the other buildings in other cities.
So, when Zhenya gets to his address (in Leningrad, not Moscow) he walks up to his apartment and opens the door with his (Moscow, not Leningrad) key.
Of course, the apartment is not his and he soon enough causes a fright to Nadya, the rightful occupant of the apartment.
Nadya is in many ways the same as Zhenya. She’s a bit of a and is also in a relationship that isn’t right for her. We soon meet her fiancé, Ippolit, as she’s trying to get Zhenya to put his pants back on. When Ippolit arrives, we see that he’s the exact opposite of Zhenya. He’s a serious, proper man. He wears a suit, slicks back his hair, and speaks with a seriousness as if he were in a communist party meeting. He’s boring and you’ll probably give a small cheer when you see him leave Nadya in disgust at Zhenya’s disrobed state.
I won’t spoil the rest of the plot for you, but rest assured, a touching and humorous romance soon unfolds between Zhenya and Nadya.