Welcome, or No Trespassing

Welcome, or No Trespassing

2.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 5 2.5

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Elem Klimov’s first feature, Welcome, or No Trespassing, commences with a multilayered verbal and visual dedication (“For grownups who used to be children and children who will eventually be grownups”) that hints at the episodic comic craziness to come and carries within its deceptive ingenuousness an acute, potentially revolutionary political charge. The story goes that Mosfilm’s hesitations in screening the film were immediately quashed after a viewing by prime minister Nikita Khrushchev, who found Welcome, or No Trespassing hilarious and ushered it into release. Khrushchev obviously missed the scathing similarities between himself and Comrade Dynin (Yevgeni Yevstigneyev), the clueless head counselor of the pioneer-camp that is the film’s primary setting. Dynin’s arch-nemesis is the tow-headed young troublemaker Kostya Inochkin (Vitya Kosykh), who sneaks back into the camp after Dynin expels him, then slowly brings down the adult ruling class through both intentional and accidental subterfuge. The ensuing, masterfully orchestrated comic chaos (a trope that the director would refine and perfect throughout his career) nonetheless raises the question of where Klimov’s sympathies lie exactly. Welcome, or No Trespassing was released at the tail-end of the Soviet “thaw” when the USSR’s relations with its foreign neighbors were amicable and in-country repression and censorship were at an all time low, though Khrushchev, as it turned out, was removed from office a mere 12 days after his advance screening of the film and replaced by the reactionary Leonid Brezhnev, who went on to reinstate many of Josef Stalin’s regressive policies. Welcome, or No Trespassing bears the scars of this ambiguous time, its profound sense of aesthetic liberation often having the adverse effect of dulling its satirical blade. The crowd sequence that climaxes the film is a conceptual miracle in the way it uses rear-projection to simulate childlike flights of fancy, but it sways too heavily in favor of the kids and so feels somewhat dishonest to the cyclical truths of history, ignoring the queasy, pit-of-the-stomach sensation that—amid all the faux-anarchic revelry—an imminent and violent sea change is looming over the horizon.

75 min
Elem Klimov
Semyon Lungin, Ilya Nusinov
Vitya Kosykh, Yevgeni Yevstigneyev, Arina Alejnikova, Ilya Rutberg, Lidiya Smirnova, Aleksei Smirnov, Nina Shatskaya, Yura Bondarenko, Lida Volkova, Tatyana Barysheva