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9 Reasons To Watch Russian Movies

9 reasons to watch Russian movies snapshot from Кавказская пленница

Watching Russian movies

Do you think that you can learn the Russian language without watching Russian movies?

Think again!  And again… Because the answer is not very obvious.

Leaving aside the fact that you are missing a ton of fun and learning opportunities, I can see at least three big reasons why you may NOT be doing it:

  1. It’s a time consuming form of learning.  Each movie takes 1.5- 2 hours to watch.In your busy life it’ might be hard for you to dedicate that much time regularly, especially when we are talking about learning and not chilling out.During the same 1.5-2 hours you can learn much more in a regular class or self-studying with reading, memorizing vocabulary, etc.
  2. It’s a passive learning activity, and not everyone can stay passively focused for such a long time when it comes to learning and not just hanging out.
  3. It’s often a frustrating experience, because it’s hard to find movies that you are able to understand.Without guidance in this direction, you may often find interesting movies that are way above your current level of comprehension.So you most likely wind up doing one of three things with them:
    • using English subtitles (which means that instead of listening comprehension in Russian you now have reading practice in English),
    • pausing the movie every five minutes and looking in a dictionary for every third word – which takes even more time and you are losing track of plot,
    • you are watching movies without any subtitles and getting frustrated because you’re missing a lot of details in the movie.

I am sure you tried it. You maybe even bought several Russian movies that are now collecting dust on your bookshelf now with the hope that one day you will be able to watch and enjoy them.

At the same time, you probably understand that in the culture with such a famous cinematography school you are missing a great resource for your learning.  Learning both, the language and culture. It’s like being able to see through a glass wall to something extremely valuable that you can only see but not hear, touch or taste any other way. Frustrating temptation. Especially if you know many others who asked you: “Did you try that? No? Oh, you should! It’s amazing!” But you don’t have a tool to break that stupid glass wall between you and a treasure.

I get it.  And that is why I wrote this blog post.

By the end of this blog post you will learn about:

  • 9 really good reasons for watching Russian movies (okay, maybe you already thought about some of them);
  • Russian movies that are a good fit to watch for each of these reasons;
  • Russian movies that will not be hard to understand for your current level.

REASON #1. Developing LISTENING SKILLS

9-reasons-1

«Приходите завтра»

If you want to become a better listener, watching movies and TV shows and series is one of the powerful ways to develop your listening comprehension. It’s obvious: you get exposed to the authentic speech in a variety of voices and styles that is almost equal to local immersion.

Not many study courses can compete with it.

You can hear authentic everyday speech, how people really talk. Not recorded dialogs, not news reports or TV talk show discussions, but people-to-people conversation about a variety of topics. That’s what you need to learn how to understand, right?

It works great for most types of learners, especially for visual and audio learners.

There is ONLY ONE problem: in movies you will hear true authentic speech that was not simplified for foreigners (like in study courses). This speech is rich, complex, and has a lot of natural contractions.

So, you might feel that you have been thrown into the ocean, and you need to learn how to swim there.

That’s right. Learning how to swim in the ocean of authentic speech is what you need. The right method and a lot of exposure will do the magic. I will write a separate article with recommendations on how to work on your listening comprehension skills by watching Russian movies the right way.

For whom it’s important: for all levels. And each level has its own focus and specifics.

REASON #2. Consolidating TOPICAL VOCABULARY

9-reasons-2

When you focus on studying any specific topic (i.e. family life, travels, education, health care, military, etc.), good movies on this topic can be a significant help to reinforce the topical vocabulary.

In the movie, you will have extra exposure to the vocabulary of a specific topic in rich context (visual, emotional, verbal) that will support its memorization.

Context is the key for memorization!  And the more different contexts the better. Especially when it’s authentic usage, and instead of reading it you can hear it and see the supporting visual part of the context.

Recommend to watch (examples of two topics):

Family life: По семейным обстоятельствам. Родня. Старший сын. Мачеха. Большая семья. Летят журавли.

Education: Доживём до понедельника. Ключ без права передачи. Чучело. Розыгрыш. Большая перемена.

Should you watch them in Russian? Yes, if you are at Intermediate (Level 2) or higher.

REASON #3. Observing PEOPLE AND TRADITIONS

Watching Russian movies

«Три тополя на Плющихе»

Throughout the movies you will be introduced to a variety of Russian characters and personalities. You will be able to analyze their common features and differences so you can avoid excessive generalizations when you talk about Russians (the phrases like “Russians are…” will sound as very simplistic to you – as it does to Russians themselves).

Russian traditions and styles of family and social life, celebrating folk, civic, and religious holidays – movies can show you that.

Recommend to watch: Вам и не снилось. Калина красная. Операция «Ы» и другие приключения Шурика. Кавказская пленница. Вокзал для двоих. Осенний марафон. Девчата. Мне двадцать лет. Приходите завтра. Весна на Заречной улице. Здравствуй и прощай. Три тополя за Плющихе. Выйти замуж за капитана. С тобой и без тебя. Будьте моим мужем. Экипаж. Весна на Заречной улице.

Should you watch them in Russian? Yes, if you are at Intermediate (Level 2) or higher.

REASON #4: Learning RUSSIAN’S VIEW ON THEIR OWN HISTORY AND MENTALITY

«Андрей Рублёв»

«Андрей Рублёв»

The best Russian movies, the classics of Soviet and contemporary Russian cinema form a priceless treasury depicting different aspects and periods of Russian life and history while implicitly  presenting  deep values and beliefs that form Russian mentality.

It’s a more interesting way for you to learn about the most important periods in Russian history – compared to reading about them in Russian history textbooks (“Лучше один раз увидеть, чем сто раз услышать”).

Plus – you will learn how Russians see their own history so you can better understand their feelings and attitudes towards different periods in their history. Understanding Russian views (often more than one!) of their history will help you get deeper and more accurate idea of the values that drive people’s actions – which will make a significant improvement in your ability to understand context “between and beyond the lines”.

Recommend to watch: Звезда пленительного счастья. Утомлённые солнцем. Орда. Поп. Восток-Запад. Сибирский цирюльник. Бег. Они сражались за Родину. Александр Невский. В начале славных дел. Иди и смотри. Васса. Белое солнце пустыни. Небеса обетованные. Семнадцать мгновений весны. Собачье сердце. Идиот. Офицеры. Анна Каренина. Брат. Звезда. Остров. Пять вечеров. Мне двадцать лет. Сталкер. Место встречи изменить нельзя. Ликвидация. Тихий Дон. Убить дракона.

Should you watch them in Russian? Yes, if you are at Advanced (Level 3) or Superior (Level 4).

REASON #5. Acquiring CULTURAL REFERENCES

«Бриллиантовая рука»

«Бриллиантовая рука»

The movies that pretty much every Russian has watched are also a great source of quotes (often humorous) that are woven into Russian colloquial speech, and are used explicitly or implicitly in media headlines and texts.

Recognizing those “hidden quotes” that most Russian know and understanding their layers of meaning is part of “beyond the lines” comprehension. And it’s impossible to learn those skills without watching those movies that are the richest sources of those quotes.

You can find those quotes if you search for «цитаты из лучших советских фильмов», «крылатые фразы советского кино и российского кино», etc.

Here are some places where you can find those quotes:

  1. http://vot-status.jimdo.com/цитаты-и-афоризмы/цитаты-и-фразы-из-советских-фильмов/ It’s a good place to start with.
  2. http://citati-filmov.ru Here you can find quotes together with the movie pictures.
  3. http://kquote.ru/nashe_kino/ (киноцитатник). But it’s probably too much of a good thing for you. Use it if you want to know maximum amount of quotes.

Recommend to watch: Москва слезам не верит. Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром. Бриллиантовая рука. Кин-Дза-дза. Покровские ворота. Иван Васильевич меняет профессию. Берегись автомобиля. Тот самый Мюнхгаузен. Обыкновенное чудо.  12 стульев.

Should you watch them in Russian? Yes, some of them are for Intermediate (Бриллиантовая рука. Иван Васильевич меняет профессию. Берегись автомобиля), some for Advanced (Москва слезам не верит. Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром. Тот самый Мюнхгаузен. Обыкновенное чудо), and some for Superior (Кин-Дза-дза. Покровские ворота. 12 стульев) levels.

REASON #6. Understanding COLLOQUIAL SPEECH AND JOKES

«Прогулка»

«Прогулка»

Watching the right movies is one of the best ways to learn colloquial Russian – the style of Russian language that educated Russians use in their informal communication.

You can also learn this style from books and participating in informal conversations with educated Russians but these two sources both have downsides compared to movies.

The downside of reading is that you don’t’ hear the intonation and don’t see the facial expressions and body language  – this is a very important part of colloquial speech context.

The downside of listening to conversations between Russian is that Russians may automatically switch from colloquial to a more standard speech in a foreigners’ presence to make it easy for you to understand – which is not your point at all!

Recommend to watch: Прогулка. Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! Служебный роман. Питер FM. Зимняя вишня. Приходи на меня посмотреть. Принцесса на бобах.

Should you watch them in Russian? Yes, if you are at Advanced (Level 3) or higher.

REASON #7.  Enjoying GREAT CINEMA ART

«Утомлённые солнцем»

«Утомлённые солнцем»

Russian movies are great cinematic art with brilliant directors, various movie styles and incredible actors of world-famous acting traditions going back from Konstantin Stanislavsky (end of XIX-beginning of XX century).

Recommend to watch: Летят журавли. Большая семья. Война и мир. Братья Карамазовы. Иваново детство. Андрей Рублев. Москва слезам не верит. 12. Свадьба. Солярис. Утомлённые солнцем. Сибириада.  Покаяние. Такси-блюз.

Should you watch them in Russian? Yes, if you are at Advanced (Level 3) or higher.

REASON #8. Getting EXTRA EXPOSURE TO THE LANGUAGE

«Обыкновенное чудо»

«Обыкновенное чудо»

If you want to get extra exposure to the language during your leisure time – watching Russian movies could be one of the ways to go (of course, you can also listen to Russian songs podcasts, and audio books, watch TV news and talk shows, read newspapers, magazine or books, browse the web).

Just choose the activity that you normally enjoy doing, and if watching movies is one of them, then watch Russian ones.

Start with the movie genre that you enjoy the most on your own language and watch it in Russian.

Recommend to watch:

Action:  Экипаж. Гений. Место встречи изменить нельзя. Ликвидация. Брат. Звезда. Корона Российской Империи. Тегеран-43. Холодное лето пятьдесят третьего. Белое солнце пустыни. Свой среди чужих, чужой среди своих.

Comedies: Кавказская пленница. Операция «Ы» и другие пиключения Шурика. Иван Васильевич меняет профессию. Бриллиантовая рука. Покровские ворота. Полосатый рейс. Кин-дза-дза. Мимино. Любовь и голуби. Служебный роман. Джентльмены удачи. 12 стульев. Карнавал. Я шагаю по Москве.

Dramas: А зори здесь тихие. Они сражались за Родину. Кин-дза-дза. Пять вечеров. Собачье сердце. Убить дракона. Курьер. Старший сын.Белорусский вокзал. Гараж. Калина красная. Зеркало. Офицеры. Иваново детство. Андрей Рублев. Серёжа. Летят журавли. Покаяние. Родня. Асса. Мужики! Без свидетелей. Пацаны. По главной улице с оркестром. Послесловие. Утомлённые солнцем.

Love stories:  Вам и не снилось. Обыкновенное чудо. Баллада о солдате. Вокзал для двоих. Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! Служебный роман. Свадьба. Девчата. Весна на Заречной улице. Три тополя на Плющихе. Самая обаятельная и привлекательная. Принцесса на бобах. Приходи на меня посмотреть. Дамы приглашают кавалеров. Будьте моим мужем. Одиноким предоставляется общежитие. Влюблён по собственному желанию. Осенний марафон. Москва слезам не верит.

Science fiction: Солярис. Сталкер. Кин-дза-дза. Парад планет. Духов день. День гнева. Гиперболоид инженера Гарина. Господин оформитель.  Отель «У погибшего альпиниста».

Detective stories: Шерлок Холмс и доктор Ватсон.  12.  Десять негритят. Статский советник. Каменская. Дочь. Ищите женщину.  Женщины на грани. (+f lot of Russian series filmed in 2000s are detectives). Семнадцать мнгновений весны. Повесть о чекисте.

REASON #9. Making YOUR “SIGNIFICANT OTHER” Happy

I almost finished this blog post, when my husband looked over my shoulder, read the headline and mentioned the reason # 1 should be “to make your wife happy”. We both laughed but it was a good point to add to this list.  Watching movies together with your Russian “significant other” – spouse, friend, child will help you to bond with them better. This may be one of your reasons for learning Russian in the first place.

Whatever reason will motivate you to watch Russian movies, enjoy the movie! You will have a good time with the best movies from the treasury of Russian cinema art while learning a lot.

For whom it’s important: for every learner who has a Russian speaking “significant other”.

Recommend to watch: whatever your spouse or friend likes 🙂

Thank you for reading and learning Russian.

Marina

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