Sibirskiy tsiryulnik (Barber of Siberia) (1998) 




Director:  Nikita Mikhalkov. 

Starring:  Julia Ormond (Jane Callahan), Richard Harris (Douglas McCraken), Oleg Menshikov (Andr Tolstoi), Aleksei Petrenko (General Radlov), Marina Neyolova (mother of Andrei Tolstoi), Vladimir Ilyin (Captain Mokin), Daniel Olbrychski (Kopnovsky), Anna Mikhalkova (Douniacha), Marat Basharov (Polievsky), Nikita Tatarenkov (Alibekov), Artyom Mikhalkov (Buturlin), Yegor Dronov (Cadet Nazarov), Avangard Leontyev (Andrei's Uncle), Robert Hardy (Forsten), Elizabeth Spriggs (Perepyolkina).

In Russian and English with English subtitles. 

A love story and a con story set in Russia. 



Good movie.  It doesn't really have much history per se.  It is only set during the reign of Czar Alexander III.

1905, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.  In the opening scene of the movie, Jane McCraken Callahan, is writing her son Andrew who is away at summer military training camp.  She wants to tell her son about her wild past and what she did in Russia.  The story then proceeds as a flashback. 

1885, Russia.  Russian military cadets board a train and a small group of cadet friends sit in a birth with American Jane Callaghan.  She takes a liking to one of the cadets, Andr Tolstoi, who in turn is very impressed by her.  He shows her a photo of his mother and him, which he forgets to retrieve when the cadets are rushed out of the train upon their arrival in Moscow. 

Jane gets off the train in Moscow where she is met by her father, Douglas McCraken.  He takes her to see the new steam-powered invention he is working on.  It is called the "Barber of Siberia" because it can cut down in one day more trees than 500 men can cut in one month.  Father McCraken wants to meet with the Grand Duke of Russia and he hopes that his lovely daughter can use her beauty to influence Lt. General Baron von Radlov, who is the Vice-chairman of his Imperial Majesty's Committee of Engineering and Technical Inventions, as well as the head of the academy of military cadets.

Jane uses the returning of the photo to cadet Tolstoi as an excuse to meet General Radlov.  The General is very taken with the lovely lady.  She also sees Tolstoi with whom she continues to flirt.   A regular triangle relationship develops between Jane, Radlov and Tolstoi. 

Cadet Polievsky, best friend to Tolstoi, teases his friend by flirting with Jane.  This so inflames Tolstoi that he forces Polievsky to fight a duel.  Tolstoi is wounded during the contest.  He feels so shamed that he wants to resign as a cadet.  Polievsky appeals to Jane to cheer him up and stop him from quitting the academy.  She does this very handily. 

The cadets graduate from the academy and are sworn in as officers in the Russian army.  The Tsar and his son preside at the ceremony.  Following graduation, Radlov proceeds over to the McCraken apartment to propose to Jane.  He grabs Tolstoi to help him with the proposal presentation which is in English. Tolstoi starts the job, but then starts making his own proposal of marriage to Jane.  This leads to a big mess and everyone is embarrassed and upset.

In the confusion, some startling facts come to light. 

Will Jane reject Radlov for the young cadet?  or will she reject both, one too old and one too young?

The love story in the movie has some interesting twists and turns which adds flavor to the film.  Ah, the webs we weave when we first start to deceive.  The landscape shots are very beautiful. 

Julia Ormond (as Jane Callahan) does a great job and Oleg Menshikov (as Andr Tolstoi) is also very good.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


See The Cossacks (1959).


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