Apr 132009


In Dvenadsat (12), this juror is almost the last holdout to insist that the Chechen kid is guilty. He sarcastically criticizes the previous juror’s emotional personal story, saying, “Uncle Vasya the city prosecutor turns a blind eye. And the criminal remains at large! And meanwhile the entire civilized world has lived for centuries according to the law.”


The juror who responds to that is a cemetery director who in the movie has several things to say about the rule of law. This time he says, “A Russian man will never live by the law.”

“Why not?”

“The law bores him. The law is dead. There’s nothing personal about it. And a Russian man without that personal touch is an empty shell.”

He makes it sound as though it’s a peculiarly Russian issue. I, on the other hand, would argue that the tension between the “law” and the “personal” is not at all just a Russian issue. It’s a tension to be found in every society where you have a system of laws.

But before getting into all that, I was going to make a snarky comment about “Russian exceptionalism.” In our country there has been an occasional debate about American Exceptionalism. But I was going to use this scene as an example to point out that there is nothing exceptional about American Exceptionalism. There is also such a thing as Russian Exceptionalism.

I thought I was being clever, but a quick google search shows me that I am far from the first person to use the term “Russian Exceptionalism.”

Oh, well.

Feb 042009

Tonight we started watching, Moi drug, Ivan Lapshin (My friend, Ivan Lapshin). We haven’t yet seen enough to learn why so many Russian critics have called it the best film in Russian history, but like I said, we’ve just started.

I’ve also gone back to watch Nikita Mikhalkov’s 2007 film, Twelve, for a 2nd time.


It’s a take-off on Twelve Angry Men. Here is juror #8 (at least he has that number in the play) explaining his “not guilty” vote by saying that the jury members should at least talk about it, first.

But although it starts by extolling the courageous juror, in the end this film is one of the sleaziest, sneakiest pieces of anti-democratic anti-rule-of-law propaganda I’ve ever seen. No wonder Putin said he shed a tear on seeing it.

At least that’s the way I remember it from the first viewing. I’m now watching it a 2nd time to observe more closely just how it was done, because the first time I didn’t realize until the end just how it had twisted. (And that was even though I had already read reviews that gave some idea of what to expect at the end.)

This is one of the few very few times in which Nikita Mikhalkov, the actor, didn’t give an annoying performance. He played it pretty straight. But as a moviemaker, this is as far as I know the worst thing he’s ever done.

No, I don’t mean the production. Mikhalkov is a talented director. It might be better if he weren’t.

I’ll explain more after I’ve seen more of it the 2nd time.