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From Moscow to Pietushki (1990)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Moscow Kursk train station: a man confesses to his friends that drinking 'Lily of the Valley' (vodka mixed with athlete's foot remedy) makes him cry and think of his mother. A group of men gather around an alcohol store, while Yerofeyev reads extracts from his book Moscow-Pietushki.

Kaschenko Psychiatric Clinic, Moscow: Dr Mikhail Mozier mentions Yerofeyev's state of 'heavy intoxication' upon his first visit to the hospital. Trubnaya Street in Moscow: Yerofeyev's friend Zhenya talks about meeting Yerofeyev in the 1970s and drinking his special cocktails, such as 'The Komsomol Girl's Tears' and 'Aunty Claudia's Kiss'. St. Ludovic's Catholic Church: Igor Avdiev, also known as 'Black Moustache', recalls that when he met 'Benny' (Yerofeyev), the author gave him a small Bible. Avdiev says that Yerofeyev was baptised as a Catholic shortly before he died.

A woman sweeps the staircase in front of an apartment block. She points out the flat of writer Benedict Yerofeyev, insisting that he is not really a writer by Moscow standards, because of his heavy drinking. In his flat, Yerofeyev's wife Galia tells how she met him and Yerofeyev comments on his life with the support of a special microphone pressed to his throat. He suffers from throat cancer. An off licence in Moscow: female shop assistants discuss the production of vodka. The hospital psychiatrist argues that Yerofeyev's writing is not literature, but a poor account of his psychosis.

Stanislav Sheverdin, editor of the journal 'Sobriety and Culture', explains the reasons behind publishing extracts from Yerofeyev's book: to show society that alcohol is a serious problem in Russia and that people like Yerofeyev are its worst victims. The poet Joseph Brodsky speaks about the absurd Soviet reality, which Yerofeyev satirises in his book. The Malaya Bronnaya Theatre, Moscow: rehearsals of Moscow-Pietushki are in progress.

Galia talks about her husband's childhood in an orphanage. She shows pictures of a young and handsome Yerofeyev and his family. Vadim Tikhonov, Yerofeyev's friend, explains how he got Benny a job as a cable fitter. He says that there is nothing to do in Pietushki but drink. The secretary of the Communist Party in Pietushki begins talking about Yerofeyev's book and his alcoholism, but is unable to finish his sentence.

Yerofeyev comments on his time at the Lomonosov University in Moscow, when he refused to attend military classes and was exiled. His drinking problems began then. A psychiatrist talks about Yerofeyev's literature and drinking as a way of resisting reality. Yerofeyev explains a series of graphs measuring the amount of alcohol he and his colleagues consumed at work one day. Yerofeyev's friends say that they spent ten years living on trains, bribing the conductors with one gram of vodka per kilometre.

The owner of Russia's most famous vodka distillery is interviewed. He explains that Russia produces 8 million litres of vodka per annum. A drunk patient is stripped in the psychiatric ward. He screams as he is hosed down with cold water. Back in Yerofeyev's flat, Galia shows his manuscripts and notebooks. She explains that Yerofeyev wrote a lot while drunk, yet he had always been a sharp thinker and the most sober of 'them all'. A naked man is brought to a detoxification unit at one of the Moscow hospitals.

A party at Yerofeyev's flat: a woman plays piano and people dance and drink. Pensive Yerofeyev sits at a table. Yerofeyev and Galia walk in the forest in Abramstevo - a village where Yerofeyev spent the last weeks of his life. Yerofeyev proclaims, 'we are all in our way drunk'.