“Tender Age”, Dir. by Sergei Soloviev (Russia, 2001)
Tender Age was produced by TriTe, Nikita Mikhalkov’s film production outfit. The script was written by Sergei Soloviev and his son Dmitri Soloviev, who also plays the main part in the film.
The film is, as most of Soloviev’s recent film, subdivided into episodes, which in turn have numerous intertitles that ironically reflect on the storyline. Here, the three parts are entitled: Idiot, Fathers and Sons, and War and Peace.
The film explores the fate of a generation of the children from families of with and elite status (party workers, foreign office civil servants, etc.) at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s, i.e. at a time when the social structures which had cocooned them were about to collapse.
Ivan Gromov (Dmitri Soloviev) is the grandson of a military fighter pilot. The film explores the years of Ivan’s adolescence through the prism of a trauma he incurred during an incident in the war when a parachute with a cartridge fell on his head. Subsequently, he is forced to tell the story of his life to an army psychiatrist. This device allows ironic distance on the part of the I-narrator Ivan to the events told in the ensuing retrospective of the film. Soloviev further parodies the events through the use of music and intertitles with high-browse quotes on everyday events. In the style of Assa and Black Rose, Soloviev here again manages to portray an accurate, yet ironic picture of the young generation in the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union. While in Assa and Black Rose he was referring to the present, he demonstrates in Tender Age his ability to use the same devices of film narrative to portray the past.
The film is an interesting document of the 1980s/1990s and the young generation of the late Soviet period, even if it offers very little new in terms of cinematography.