Interview with Astaikina, Tat’iana (2016)

Analysis of Interview with Tat’iana Astaikina.
Conducted by Bailey Orr (interviewer) and Maggie Swift (camera and sound) in July 2016.

Transcribed and translated by Bailey Orr, Maggie Swift, Gabriella Carney, and Molly Charles in Fall 2016.

Analysis written by Bailey Orr, Maggie Swift, Gabriella Carney, and Molly Charles in Fall 2016.

 

Transcription

Deed of Gift

Analytical Note

On July 29th, 2016, Bailey Orr and Maggie Swift interviewed Tatyana Astaikina in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  Gabriella Carney, Molly Charles, Bailey Orr, and Maggie Swift transcribed and translated the interview during the fall of 2016 for The William and Mary Russian Movie Theatre Project.

Tatyana Astaikina was born in Vladivostok, but moved frequently when she was growing up.  A few of the cities she has lived in besides the one she was born in are Magadan, Amderma, Riga, Donetsk, and Kiev.  Tatyana Astaikina lived in various places because her parents frequently changed jobs and had to move.  However, by the time Tatyana Astaikina was 18 years old, she moved to Saint Petersburg and has been living there since.  In Saint Petersburg, Tatyana Astaikina graduated from college with a degree in philology.

The first time Tatyana Astaikina went to the movies was when she was five years old.  She recounts her experience as being “absolutely terrible” (3:55).  Her parents took her along rather than leaving her at home and chose to watch “a French film Queen of the Chantecler” (3:28).  Due to the fact that the Queen of the Chantecler is not meant for children, the movie theater staff did not let Tatyana Asтaikina in the screening room and the the entire family had to return home.  While the 1962 musical melodrama La reina del Chantecler about La Bella Charito is a Spanish film, Tatyana thinks that the film was French because France exported a lot of films to the Soviet Union in the late Soviet era.  The film was released in the USSR in 1966 and sold 39.7 million tickets in the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet Union, movie theatre tickets “almost didn’t cost anything” (4:00).  One could see a movie in the theatres for a few kopeks and return another day to watch reruns.  Tatyana Astaikina juxtaposes the cheap ticket price during the Soviet era with that of today’s rather expensive movie theatre tickets, priced around three hundred rubles. She describes going to the movies often with her friends as students because the tickets were so cheap, contrasting that with today’s prices, which she believes affect young people who can no longer afford to go to the movies. She also mentions that during her childhood in the Soviet Union there were always long lines for movies for the afternoon and night screenings.   Moviegoing, she notes, was among few affordable leisure activities.  As for the morning and daytime screenings Tatyana notes that only children and teenagers would go to the movies at those times because their parents were at work  from 9 to 6 every day.  In contrast, she describes how today Russians go to the movies at any time of day because many work “freelance” (12:40) and are more flexible with their schedule. Tatyana also says that because movie tickets are more expensive now, fewer people can afford to go to the movies.  For example, she rarely sees elderly people at the theater (13:08).

Movie theatres were very convenient due to the affordable price, quantity, and location.  When Tatyana Astaikina lived in Belgorod, there were two theatres by her house to which she could walk, including one with a standard Soviet name, Motherland (4:26).  Although Astaikina would choose films based on the actors, directors, or plot (5:20), movie-going was generally a spontaneous activity for her. She would go at different times of the day, on different days of the week, and even recalls drinking cognac with her student friends in the movie theatre (14:52). Despite this anecdote, at various points in the interview Astaikina emphasizes what she sees as major differences between American audiences and Soviet audiences.  She notes that Soviet-era viewers never made noise or comments during screenings, which she assumes is typical among American moviegoers (13:25).  As these comments were unprompted, one can conclude that Astaikina takes pride in the respectable nature of Soviet audiences and wanted to impart this opinion to a Westerner.

When discussing the kinds of movies that were most popular in her childhood, Tatyana Astaikina mentions both Soviet and foreign films. There were Soviet films that everyone knew and loved, mainly comedies and dramas, such as White Bim Black Ear, Office Romance, and Pokrovskii Gate, which are still popular today (18:30).  This means that Russian television channels still rerun these Soviet-era films.  She also says foreign films were also shown fairly often in theaters, mainly French and American films.  She mentions that the reason for French films being shown often may have been some kind of friendship between Soviet and French government (19:10), and whether or not this is true, it shows an awareness (likely shared by many former Soviet citizens) of the role of the government and its alliances and ideology in many aspects of daily life, including moviegoing.  In fact, because Soviets often could not afford and did not buy Hollywood blockbusters for political reasons, French genre films filled the empty niche.

Tatyana Astaikina has a unique perspective on film, as she worked in the film industry for some period of time, taking part in two projects. She describes going to the movies with her film industry friends and how she looked at everything differently — which cameras were used, what lighting, how the scenes were shot, etc. (11:00).  When asked about age and gender groups in movie theatres, Astaikina answered that people of all ages between 20-40 years of age went to the theatres most frequently and that they were mostly women.  She explains that there were more women than men in Russia’s population at the time (12:00).

One prominent aspect in movie theatre-going during the Soviet Union is waiting in lines.  Tatyana Astaikina stated “there were always lines” (12:24).  Generally, people worked from 9am to 6pm, so it was natural for movie theatres to be crowded during after-work hours during the Soviet Union.  On the other hand, Russia’s movie theatres today do not consist of lines because “people work on their own time” (12:40).  Unfortunately, after waiting in line, uncomfortable seats awaited the viewers.   Russian movie theatres were more uncomfortable than they are now (15:17).  The seats, plastic-covered wood, were uncomfortable to the point where people would have to readjust their sitting position.  The temperature in many cases, such as “Angleterre” theatre, was cold, regardless of the season.  

The custom of movie theatre-going during the Soviet Union was to keep an atmosphere of silence and a proper audience.  People would not eat popcorn or chat in movie theaters like Americans do, though drinking cognac was popular among Russian students.  Tatyana Astaikina contrasts movie theatre etiquette with that of a circus.  In a circus, there were food counters, buffets, and the scent of soda and animals, and spectators of all ages, unlike a movie theatre.  Age limit in movie theatres was regulated in movie theaters by administration.  Rather than the film “suggesting” an age minimum, the administration in Russian movie theaters would enforce this rule, forbidding children under sixteen to watch films with a “warning that children must be sixteen years old” (20:49).  It was the movie theatre administrators that dictated children in movie theaters rather than the parents.  The parents “couldn’t know…they were at work” (20:18).

Before internet, word of worthwhile films to see would get around by newspapers or magazines.  Newspapers and magazines provided synopsis, actors, and directors.  Tatyana Astaikina decided which films to see based off of the recommendation of critics in glamour magazines.  Today, she weighs the option of seeing a particular film from internet broadcasting.  The most popular genre among Russians was and still is comedy, according to Astaikina.  Additionally, she states that dramas were popular as well.  When asked her view on foreign films, Astaikina admits that she liked foreign films the best, specifically French and American films.  Though French and American films were screened in Russia and popular to see, other films, some films had difficulty with distribution, such as Trial on the Road then and The Master and Margarita now.  

“Television cannot replace cinema” (24:45).  Though watching films on television and on computers are convenient for Tatyana Astaikina, she still prefers the large screen that cinema offers.  Today, Astaikina and other Russians enjoy the special effects that the visual of modern cinema has to offer, such as Alice in Wonderland, by Tim Burton.  She will continue to go to movie theaters in her free time.  

Our team appreciates the insight of Soviet and Russian movie theaters that Tatyana Astaikina provided us.