I Am Twenty [Lenin's Guard]

[Мне двадцать лет]

(1964) USSR

Directed by Marlen Khutsiev

Written by Marlen Khutsiev and Gennadii Shpalikov. Cinematography by Margarita Pilikhina. Art Direction by David Vinitskii. Music by Nikolai Sidel'nikov. With Valentin Popov, Nikolai Gubenko, Stanislav Liubshin, Mariana Vertinskaia, and Zinaida Zinov'eva.

In Russian with English subtitles

The scene of the protagonist's meeting with the ghost of his dead father became the focus of major political intervention when Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev attacked the film, originally entitled Lenin's Guard, after a screening in 1963. Khrushchev was outraged by the father's refusal to answer his son's question about the meaning of life. This and many ideological faults of the film resulted in its being renamed, cut (for instance, almost the entire sequence of poetry reading in the Politechnical Museum), and re-edited.
Lenin's Guard was the conclusion and the absolute climax of the openly militant Soviet cinema of the 1950s and 1960s.
Its plot seems to be buzzing from the questions that young people were asking themselves. [E]ach of the heroes is organically linked to the social, psychological, and emotional space which formed the core of the era, and which manifests itself so triumphantly and freely in the central episode of the film-the scene of the May Day parade. This scene for the first and, perhaps, for the last time captured on the screen a spontaneous and joyful procession of free people.
— Miron Chernenko, Marlen Khutsiev, pp. 13, 15

Shpalikov's [scriptwriter for Lenin's Guard] contribution was twofold: he unblocked the pent-up dam of lyrical poetry that had been denied to Soviet filmmakers under Stalin; and he also re-introduced the everyday, the sense of real people, places, and time.
The influence of Shpalikov's de-dramatization, his reliance on nuance and atmosphere—above all on the empathy that the audience must bring to the film—can be felt across many of the key Soviet films of the decade.
— Ian Christie, "Back in the USSR", Film Comment 36.6 (Nov-Dec 2000), p. 40

Marlen Khutsiev (b. 1925) graduated from the State Institute of Cinematography in 1952. One of the leading cultural figures of the Thaw, Khutsiev made films that were both popular with the audience (especially the 1956 Spring on Zarechnaia Street) and symbolic of the era's dreams and illusions. In 1965, the film I Am Twenty got a Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. In the 1970s Khutsiev worked on TV. In 1992, Khutsiev's film Infinitas won two awards at the Berlin International Film Festival. The director in currently working on a film about Aleksandr Pushkin. Khutsiev received a prestigious award "For Services to the Motherland."