Office Romance

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Office Romance (Russian: Служебный роман, romanized: Sluzhebnyj roman) is a Soviet comedy film directed by Eldar Ryazanov. It was filmed at Mosfilm in 1976 and released in 1977. The film's plot is based on the stageplay Co-workers (Russian: Сослуживцы, romanized: Sosluzhivtsy) written by Eldar Ryazanov and Emil Braginsky, and tells the story of Ludmila Kalugina, head of a statistical bureau, and her subordinate, economist Anatoly Novoseltsev, who come from mutual aversion to love.

Office Romance was a box office success, the leader of Soviet film distribution in 1978 and still enjoys wide popularity in the former Soviet republics.

Both romantic drama and screwball comedy, the film is noted for its scenes of Moscow in the late 1970s, and for its comical depiction of the everyday life and customs of Soviet society during the Era of Stagnation.


The action takes place in Moscow in 1976. Anatoly Yefremovich Novoseltsev, a clumsy single father of two sons, works at a statistical bureau. His boss is a strict single woman in her late 30s, Ludmila Prokofievna Kalugina, nicknamed "our frump" (Russian: Наша мымра, romanized: nasha mymra, also translated "our hag") by her subordinates. He dreams about a promotion and a raise, but he is too timid to talk to his boss about it. His former classmate and old friend, Yuri Grigorievich Samokhvalov suggests appointing his old friend as a head of the light industry department, but Kalugina rejects the advice. Then, following Samokhvalov's advice, Novoseltsev unwillingly tries to flirt with "the Frump" at a party in Samokhvalov's apartment, but Kalugina gets very annoyed at his attempts to impress her. Eventually drunk Novoseltsev becomes frustrated and tells Kalugina that he considers her "dry, inhuman and heartless".

The following morning Novoseltsev comes to her office to apologize, but then suddenly Kalugina bursts into tears, revealing that his accusations from the night before hurt her. They have a heart-to-heart conversation and they start getting closer and soon fall in love with each other. Kalugina, having thrown off her "protective mask" of a hard-hearted woman, becomes more aware of her femininity and surprises everyone with her new elegant clothes and charming look.

The relationship between Anatoly and Ludmila evolves, full of comical situations and repartees. At the same time drama unfolds between Olga Ryzhova and Yuri Samokhvalov who were dating many years ago at a university. Now both of them have families but Olga's romantic feelings are revived after meeting Samokhvalov at the office. However, he treats her like just a friend. She begins to write him love letters, which she passes to him through Verochka, a secretary. Samokhvalov, tired of the wave of love letters, tells about the situation to the meddlesome Shura, a local labor union committee activist and the biggest talebearer in the office. He gives her the letters and asks her to "sort out the problem" at the session of the committee. Later, Ryzhova, broken-hearted and humiliated, asks Samokhvalov to return the letters to her and gets back to her normal life.

At an earlier point when Novoseltsev had learned about Samokhvalov's showing his good friend Ryzhova's love letters to Shura, he completely boils over. Novoseltsev suddenly slaps Samakhalov hard in the face. Samokhvalov takes revenge by disclosing Novoseltsev's initial "plan" to Kalugina. She is shocked and wants to give up on Novoseltsev. She calls him up to her office, tells him about her decision to appoint him as head of the light industry department and to end their relationship. Novoseltsev feels ashamed and admits that their relationship indeed started purely for mercenary reasons, but insists that he has come to love her. Kalugina brushes him off. In his turn he rejects the appointment and tenders his resignation. Kalugina refuses to dismiss Novoseltsev to spite him. They have a fiery argument which results in a noisy scuffle right in the office. Everything ends up as Novoseltsev, trying to escape from the furious Ludmila, runs out of the building, jumps on a back seat of a car (that turns out to be Kalugina's service vehicle with a personal chauffeur), she follows him angrily, but Novoseltsev manages to soothe her, and they are seen embracing. A subtitle suggests that already in 9 months there will be three boys in Novoseltsev's family, i.e. Anatoly and Ludmila will later have a son.

Casting and production

  • Alisa Freindlich was the director's primary choice for the role of Kalugina. Eldar Ryazanov created the character having in mind Freindlich as the one to portray it. Moreover, he started working on the screenplay seriously only after securing consent of all the actors he wanted to cast to participate in the film. It was a rare case in Soviet cinema when a director would be allowed to cast all actors of his own choice without preliminary screen-tests and approval of the Art Council. Ryazanov worried that Freindlich would not be able to come to Moscow for shooting of the film because of stage performances and rehearsals she was busy with in her native Leningrad. So he assured both the actress and her management that she would be allowed to go to Leningrad on the first demand. It came out that she was compelled to leave for the theater often and thus travel between Moscow and Leningrad all the time.
  • In order to create genuine image of a frumpy boss Ryazanov and Freindlich searched through all wardrobes of the studio for baggy, old-fashioned clothes. Cameraman Vladimir Nakhabtsev brought to the studio the old thick-frammed glasses that belonged to his father - they helped to complete the image.
  • Ryazanov took some risk casting Andrey Myagkov for the second time for the role of a clumsy intellectual, similar to this in 1975 hit The Irony of Fate. Not everyone agreed with the director's decision upon casting. Oleg Basilashvili didn't like the role of the "villain" Samokhvalov. Like Freindlich, he had to travel frequently between Moscow and Leningrad due to obligations on the Leningrad stage, and he believed that his worn-out look would be ideal to portray an unkempt and humble Novoseltsev. Later, during the shooting he admitted that the director's choice was right. But it was a hard task for make-up artists to make a glossy complacent Samokhvalov out of the exhausted Basilashvili, and, on the contrary, a sloppy bachelor Novoseltsev out of the refined Myagkov.
  • One of few roles for which screen-tests were taken, was the role of activist Shura. Actress Ludmila Ivanova, who in real life was a head of local labor union committee at the Sovremennik Theatre, got into the role quickly and was the most convincing when she shouted out: "Comrades, donate 50 copecks!"

Audience reaction, critical reception and awards

Office Romance was a Soviet hit movie in 1978 having 58.4 million viewers, and still remains one of the most popular Soviet-era films in Russia and other former Soviet republics. Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov were named Best Actors of the year by readers of Soviet Screen Magazine.

The film received general approval from critics; there was not one negative review of the film. High artistical level, skills and organic collaboration of director and actors were noted, as well as vivid portrayal of Moscow, comic elements in parallel with investigation of moral issues.

Members of the State Art Council nominated the leading actors for the USSR State Prize. Alisa Friendlich was the one who didn't receive the Prize - according to the rules of that time, an actor couldn't be given a new Prize earlier than two years after getting the previous one. And Friendlich had already been awarded for her stage performance a year before the release of the film.

On the 40th anniversary of the film's release, Google released a Google Doodle in its honor for Russia and Ukraine.

In 2011 a remake was released, titled Office Romance. Our Time, with Sarik Andreasyan serving as director.


The songs from the film, performed by Alisa Friendlich and Andrey Myagkov, became hits in the USSR.

  • "Моей душе покоя нет" (For The Sake O’ Somebody; verbatim: "My soul has no rest") by Andrei Petrov - Robert Burns, translation by Samuil Marshak - the main theme; two versions sung by Alisa Friendlich and Andrey Myagkov.
  • "Нас в набитых трамваях болтает" (We Are Jolted in Crowded Trams) by Andrei Petrov - Yevgeny Yevtushenko, sung by Andrey Myagkov.
  • "Обрываются речи влюблённых/Облетают последние маки" (Lovers' Talks Stop Suddenly/The Last Poppies Shed Their Petals) by Andrei Petrov - Nikolay Zabolotsky - Two songs with the same music by different lyrics, sung by Alisa Friendlich and Andrey Myagkov respectively.
  • "Песенка о погоде" (A Song About Weather), also known as "У природы нет плохой погоды" (Nature Has No Bad Weather), by Andrei Petrov - Eldar Ryazanov, sung by Alisa Friendlich.
  • "Увертюра" (Overture) by Andrei Petrov - Robert Burns - based on the main theme and "Lovers' Talks Stop Suddenly", opens the film.
  • "Утро" (Morning), instrumental by Andrei Petrov.
  • "Дождь" (Rain), instrumental by Andrei Petrov, based on "A Song About Weather".
  • "Танец воспоминаний" (The Dance of Remembrances), instrumental by Andrei Petrov, based on the main theme.
  • "Осень" (Fall), instrumental by Andrei Petrov
  • "Финал" (Final) by Andrei Petrov - Robert Burns, based on the main theme.

In 2004, DJ Groove from Saint Petersburg released remixes of the main themes of the film that were frequently broadcast by local radio stations.

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    Name Born / Since / At Died Languages
    1Александр ФатюшинАлександр Фатюшин29.03.195106.04.2003ru
    2Andrey  MyagkovAndrey Myagkov08.07.193818.02.2021de, en, fr, lv, pl, ru
    3Георгий БурковГеоргий Бурков31.05.193319.07.1990ru
    4Mikhail SvetinMikhail Svetin11.12.193030.08.2015en, lv, ru, ua
    5Пётр ЩербаковПётр Щербаков21.07.192916.03.1992ru, ua
    6Eldar RyazanovEldar Ryazanov18.11.192729.11.2015de, en, fr, lt, lv, pl, ru, ua
    7Maria  VinogradovaMaria Vinogradova13.07.192202.07.1995en, pl, ru
    8Emil  BraginskyEmil Braginsky19.11.192126.05.1998en, ru