Vsadnik po imeni Smert (The Rider named Death) (2004)
Director: Karen Shakhnazarov.
Starring: Andrey Panin (Georges), Kseniya Rappoport (Erna), Artyom Semakin (Vanya), Rostislav Bershauer (Fyodor), Anastasiya Makeeva (Elena), Aleksey Kazakov (Heinrich), Dmitriy Dyuzhev (Azef), Valeriy Storozhik (Elena's Husband), Dmitriy Gusev (Gashkes), Vasiliy Zotov (The Grand Prince Sergei Aleksandrovich), Anna Gorshkova (Rogoznikova).
Russian terrorists against the Czarist regime in 1905
A beautiful woman named Princess Beloselskaya-Belozerskaya comes to the palace. She wants to get permission to bring food to her brother who is being held in prison. She is let in to see the police chief and there she shoots the man four times with a pistol. She is a member of the paramilitary wing of the Social Revolutionary Party. The people hoped to realize their aims by means of violence against the most senior Imperial officials. The woman's real name was Zinaida Rogoznikova, a member of the gentry. She refuses to answer any other questions.
6th August, 1906. General Governor Baron Unterberger comes out of the church during the Nizhny Novgorod trade fair, and a beggar shoots him twice with a pistol. The beggar is killed by the crowd.
Two months later. In Tambov, a bomb is used to kill Vice-Governor Preobrazhensky. The bomb thrower is Anna Sergeievna Soloveva, who says she did it because the vice-governor brutally suppressed the peasant unrest.
A fabulous party is being thrown at a very ritzy restaurant. A man, named Vanya, at a table says the Grand Duke will die and he will throw the first bomb. He adds that it should have been he who fired the shot in Kharkov. The speaker says that he believes in violence. It is a natural part of revolution. The fellow he is talking to two men who are with a paramilitary group. They will judge if Vanya is good enough to join their organization. Vanya is asked to wait by the door. Now the two can start plotting. Two of their men will pose as cabbies and spy on the Grand Duke.
Later Vanya tells Georges that the other paramilitary man didn't like him. Georges says the man does like Vanya and everything's okay.
The next morning Georges goes to talk to one of their cabbies by the palace. The fellow says the Grand Duke has gone to the Kremlin again. Fyodor is following him.
Later Georges meets with Fyodor. He asks Fyodor what made him get involved in violence? Fyodor says they killed his beloved wife. She had gone to a demonstration and where the people were chased down by the Cossacks.
Georges' girlfriend smuggles in some dynamite in a suitcase. She is very glad to be reunited with Georges.
Georges goes back to the fancy restaurant where they put on a can-can dance performance. Georges thinks to himself that he likes being an outlaw, alone with no roots, no family, no name. He likes to be indifferent to human involvement. He neither likes nor dislikes the Grand Duke, but he does want the man dead.
Georges tells his girlfriend Erna that tomorrow morning he will come for the two bombs. Erna now starts to work on the bombs. She has to be very careful in the process. She carries the bombs in a covered basket. The bombs are transferred to Georges' carrying bag. He and Vanya get into position, but this day the Grand Duke's route is changed, and he changed his route because he was going to catch a train to Petersburg to celebrate the Empress's name-day.
A man named Gashkes comes to see Georges. He edits a newspaper dealing with industry, trade and finances. Georges says he's not a writer, but a trade representative, but can be of no assistance to the editor. Gashkes leaves.
Georges goes out, but Gashkes just keeps following him. After two hours of trying to get away for Gashkes, Georges goes into a restaurant and speaks with one of his men, Fyodor. So now when the two men walk out, Fyodor threatens to kill Gashkes if he keeps following them. They grab his cab by threatening the cabbie with violence and they do get away from Gashkes.
Georges figures that they've been spotted and he tells Fyodor he should get out of town. He adds that he too is going to leave town. So they all get out of town.
A month later Georges is back in Moscow. This times he has a fancy car with a driver named Heinrich. Georges pretends to be a rich foreign businessman, while Erna pretends to be his wife, Fyodor his servant and Vanya a street vendor.
Erna says she knows that Georges does not love her. Nevertheless, she loves him. Georges thinks to himself that his thoughts are of Elena. He met her on his second day back in Moscow. They knew each other before. Eleana is a married woman, but Georges tells her that he still thinks of her. Her husband comes up, and Elena goes off with him.
Elena's husband is either in the police or the military judging from his uniform. Georges later sees the husband on the street hailing a cabbie. He stares at the man in uniform. The husband sees Georges but doesn't stare at him.
One day Elena and Georges take a walk in the park and talk.
Another dynamite shipment comes in for the team. Erna takes a close look at the product. She tells Georges that Heinrich told her that he loved her. She asks Georges if he is jealous. He says nothing, so she says that she supposes that he doesn't even care -- that he doesn't love her. She then asks him to tell her he loves her. All Georges will say is that they need three bombs by tomorrow morning. He thinks to himself that tomorrow morning they are all going to leave Moscow and he may never see Erna again. Suddenly, he feels sorry to her.
The four men are back at the fancy restaurant again. Fyodor is mad thinking that the dress of one of the older women must have cost 200 rubles, and when he worked at the factory, he only earned 1 ruble per day. He says there's just no justice in this world. The main thing they talk about, however, is who will be the man who will throw the first of the three bombs?
Everyone is ready to throw their bombs into the carriage of the Grand Duke. Vanya will go first, but when he sees the children in the carriage, he doesn't throw his bomb. Then Heinrich doesn't throw his bomb. But Fyodor does throw his bomb, but it doesn't go off. So know five or six policemen are chasing Fyodor. Fyodor hides behinds a bunch of chopped wood and there he shoots himself in the head.
Vanya tries to justify his actions not to throw the bomb by saying they had no agreement on killing children. Heinrich complains about Vanya, but Enra asks Heinrich how could he let the carriage pass? Georges tells the man to go away. Heinrich leaves. Enra says it was her fault that the bomb didn't go off.
Georges meets with one of the higher ups, who tells Georges that there's a feeling in the organization that Georges' paramilitary group should be dissolved. In fact, the Central Committee is considering ending the use of all violent methods. And besides, with only two men, Georges can't do the job.
Georges and Elena kiss. They go to bed together. (brief nudity) He tells her he loves her. All she will commit to is today, I love you. Isn't that enough? She also says that, of course, Georges doesn't love, because he is always focused on death.
Georges says he is alone again. He's been alone his whole life. He says: "I have no way of getting close to people." He can only think of death.
Erna tells Georges that some of the dynamite has gone bad, and all they can make is one bomb. He tells her she's had just one failure after another. Georges tells her to go away. Then he turns and says she should have the bomb ready at 8 o'clock in the morning.
Georges gives Vanya the bomb. This time he throws the bomb through the carriage window and it explodes with a tremendous force. People on the street have lost limbs to the explosion. Georges just stands there as if frozen. He sees a man fall on the street, probably dead.
Georges reads in the paper that the Grand Duke still lives. Vanya, on the other hand, was blown to pieces. The coachman was decapitated. A bystander who tried to stop Vanya is dead. And yet, the Grand Duke still lives and unscathed at that.
Georges tells Enra that she must leave and they are not going together. She begs Georges not to leave her. She cries. He remains emotionally flat. He tells her good-bye and leaves.
Now the Grand Duke doesn't leave the palace and has a triple guard for protection. Georges says: "But, I'll still kill him!"
Georges and Elena have sex again. This times she says she loves Georges, but she will never be his wife.
Georges says he doesn't have any plan, so he's just going to go into his box at the opera and shoot the Grand Duke. He say he might get shot first, but that doesn't matter.
The Grand Duke is at the opera and Georges is also there. When the opera starts Georges gets up out of his chair and starts toward the back of the theatre. He goes up the stairs, but sees a lot of people up there. He freezes and just waits and the people disappear. He goes past a servant and gets a little behind the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke senses that there is someone over his shoulder. He slowly stands up and just stares at the stranger. After awhile, Georges raises his gun hand and shoots the Grand Duke once in the chest. He then leaves. He goes back to his room and lays down.
Georges runs into Elena's husband. He tells the man he has been waiting for him. They walk to the park. Georges tells the man that he wants him to go away. The husband says Georges must be mad in the head. Since the guy won't go away, Georges pulls out his pistol and says then they will have to fight. The husband pulls out his gun, but he just holds the pistol down and to his side. Meanwhile, Georges is counting one, two , three. He aims the pistol at the fellow, but the fellow just stands there. Then Georges shoots the man and he falls to the ground. The guy is definitely dead.
Back in his room Georges thinks to himself that he does not repent and he has no desire for Elena. It's as if the shot extinguished his love for her.
The man from the Central Committee comes to see Georges. He congratulates him on his accomplishment and asks how did he do it? Georges plays nonchalant about it. The fellow then tells Georges that now he too is on the Central Committee. Georges will run the paramilitary wing after he moves on to general duties. But now, for some reason, Georges asks: "Why kill more people?" The guy is puzzled by this question. He says: "Georges, you need a rest." He suggests that Georges should get out of town. The city is full of police and Georges is looking very conspicuous.
The man now starts being philosophical. He says he turned to violence for freedom, universal equality and social justice, but now that's all nonsense. He says Georges doesn't believe in anything. He adds that terrorism is the triumph of man over the state. Georges thinks for a moment and then says goodbye.
It's early in the morning. He thinks to himself. Erna blew herself up in the Hotel Bristol in St. Petersburg on December 24, 1906, while making a bomb to blow up General von der Launitz. They identified her by her hands which were blown 200 yards away. Heinrich shot the Governor of Chernigovsky on September 16, 1907. He was shot on the same day by order of the court-martial. Valentin Kuzmich was exposed as a secret agent. He went into hiding in Germany. In WWI, he was jailed and died on May 20, 1918. Georges left the Social Revolutionary Party. He fought against the communists when they came to power in Russia. After the Russian Civil War, he organized a series of terror attacks in the USSR. He was arrested in 1924. During his interrogation he threw himself out of a window. Thirteen years earlier, in 1912, the poet Maximilian Voloshin had given a poetry reading in a St. Petersburg café. The poet sent a poem to Georges, who wrote back to the poet asking: ". . . but why me?"
Interesting film that keeps your interest because you don't know what these totally-committed radicals are capable of. They want to kill the Grand Duke of Russia and go on to other assassinations. The movie looks into the motives of the assassins/bomb throwers. They talk especially about the leader of the terrorist cell, but the analyses seems rather shallow. Seems to me one needs a psychiatrist to diagnose the motives and thinking of various terrorists. I would bet that there are a lot of different dynamics at work in the brains of the different terrorists. There is probably no one thing that can be used to identify the motives of terrorists. Just know this: the more unjust the society in real terms, the more likely terrorists are to be created. So it's a combination of unjust social and economic events and individuals' psychiatric conditions.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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