Soviet Union, 20 min
Directed by: Fyodor Khitruk
Written by: Mikhail Volpin (screenplay)
Starring: Zinoviy Gerd (voice)
Fyodor Khitruk is best-known for directing the Soviet Vinni-Pukh ("Winnie the Pooh") films, but his debut Story of One Crime (1962) presents a far less utopian world than that created by A.A. Milne. When Vasily Vasilievitch Mamim, a mild-mannered accountant, attacks two women with a frying pan one morning, he is surrounded by a mob of angry onlookers, and a policeman arriving on the scene decides to set the clock back twenty-four hours to see what could possibly have turned this previously-contented man into a dangerous lunatic. The culprit is revealed to be a single sleepless night, thrust upon poor Vasily by a succession of inconsiderate neighbours in his high-rise apartment building: one man plays his stereo at full-blast, another holds a boisterous party at some ridiculous time of night, two love-struck lovers communicate loudly through the pipes at 3 o'clock in the morning.
In a nutshell, Story of One Crime is about the selfishness of modern society. Despite treating everybody else he meets with complete consideration – offering his train seat to an older gentleman, for example – Vasily is continually inconvenienced by neighbours who are too thoughtlessly insensitive to care about his own needs. The animation style is simple but effective. Khitruk uses split-screens like the panels in a picture-book, in a manner similar to that employed by Norshteyn in The Fox and the Hare (1973). The characters are all drawn as basic caricatures, who bark like jazz instruments when they argue with each other. Khitruck continued this theme of society's selfishness, more successfully in my view, in his film Island (1973), in which the main character is stranded on a tiny island and consistently ignored by every passing vessel. A simple message, but an entertaining film.