Thursday, July 10, 2014

Case Study No. 1432: Staff of the Russian State Library

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Tags: VTS Archangel
Added: 5 years ago
From: Sulikop
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Archangel (2005, UK, made for TV). Daniel Craig as Russian history professor Fluke Kelso goes to the Lenin Library in Moscow to research a clue about the death of Stalin. One librarian (Elena Butenko) refuses to help, but Kseniya Entelis as younger librarian Yelena gets him the materials he needs. Later, he travels to a Communist Party archives in Archangel to find more evidence.



Before a man becomes James Bond there seems to be a criteria that must be fulfilled. One must be suave, charismatic with a tinge of misogynist thrown in. After all this is the spy who's too cool for a code name. Everyone knows his reputation. They even know how he likes his martinis.

To fulfill the Bond profile Roger Moore first starred as The Saint - a detective named Simon Templar who solved cases with a debonair attitude and masterful disguises. There was also Pierce Brosnan who played a mysterious man and was given the name Remington Steele to act as a front for a female headed detective agency. Each week Brosnan showed why he was the best choice for the mantle of James Bond. But what of Daniel Craig? What were his credentials that showed he could be 007?

The answer is the BBC miniseries "Archangel." Based on the book by Englishman Robert Harris, the television show showed how a historian gets entangled in a mystery that involves Stalin, a woman, her diary and a child. Placed in present time Russia Fluke Kesko (Craig) gets embroiled in this escapade that is action packed from the beginning.

From this series you can tell why Craig was chosen for the rough-around-the-edges agent who M (Dame Judi Dench) pleaded with "not to kill every potential lead." His Bond is tough, hardened and tragic. He also gets beaten on like a drum in both Bond films. However it is in Archangel where you can see how it's possible to play the man with that iconic theme song.

The miniseries itself holds very little in the surprise department. But that doesn't mean it isn't suspenseful. The possibility of Stalin having left a legacy behind is something the old guard wants found. For the newer generation it may not hold value, but for the ones who remember Stalin it's a part of their heritage where they were feared and before there were Armani suits and a McDonald's marring the landscape. Any chance for a grasp of greatness even if it's from the past is worth finding and in some cases killing for.

There's also chemistry between the actors. Not just sexual, but the dialogue comes alive. Between the frustration of being thwarted by agents and secret police and a corrupt system the actors are constantly challenging each other and the material in the screenplay. It makes for compelling viewing.

So if you're in the mood for a Bond-like experience and can't seem to find a 007 film on check out Archangel on the instant Queue.



Pre-Bond Daniel Craig stars as a British professor who travels to Russia and investigates mysterious incidents surrounding the life and death of Joseph Stalin. There are some cool locations throughout, including an early scene set in the Russian State Library, heralded by the monument of Dostoyevsky outside its rather imposing front columns (see below). The largest library in the country and national library of Russia, it was founded in 1862 as Moscow's first free public library. The library welcomes 4,000 visitors a day, as it is open to the public - whether you're a resident or not.

Craig's fictional character, Professor Fluke Kelso, takes advantage of this policy by starting there to research a source's story. Thing is, the librarians don't seem to be aware of this open-door policy. Guess that's why it's fictional.

Kelso hands an expired library card to the first librarian (credited as Older Librarian and played by Elena Butenko), who is seated behind a large, glassed-off marble counter.

Here's how their conversation goes:


Kelso: [speaking in Russian] Good morning.

Older Librarian: [in Russian] Good morning.

Older Librarian: [in Russian] How long have you had this [library card]?

Kelso: [in Russian] I was a student here. A long time ago.

Older Librarian: It is out of date.

Kelso: Yes, I know. Is it possible that I can renew it? I'm a professor. I'm writing a book.

Older Librarian: Fill in form. Send in mail.

Kelso: Yeah, but I'm leaving Moscow tomorrow. Uh, could you help me please?

Older Librarian: I will talk to supervisor.

Kelso: [in Russian] Thank you.


It's cold in Russia, but the looks he gets from that librarian? Frost bite.

Trying to warm up, Kelso slides over to the other librarian, Yelena (Kseinya Entelis) who's been giving him the once-over. (Wouldn't you be?) They have a Meet Cute moment before Kelso reveals what he really wants:


Yelena: Are you the Kelso who wrote the book on fall of the Communist party?

Kelso: Uh, yes. Yes, I guess I am.

Yelena: Great book. You really stuffed the bastards.

Kelso: Thank you. You are?

Yelena: Artamon Yelena Pavlova.

Kelso: I need everything you've got on the death of Stalin, Yelena. Statements, eye witness accounts, please.

Yelena: She [the Older Librarian] will not approve this.

Kelso: Does she have to know?


Aaaaaand... no surprises, we cut to a shot of Kelso writing notes and standing by an old-school card catalog. And Yelena's helping out, of course (see right):


Yelena: I found another one. Page 5-1-2.

Kelso: Thank you.

Yelena: So you went to the Moscow State University?

Kelso: I did, yes. I spent a lot of time in this library with a girlfriend. It was warm.

Yelena: [hands him an index card]

Kelso: Is this your adress?

Yelena: No. It is where Barry lived. You know they found their human remains in the basement. Bones.


(Sigh.) And yes, Moscow State University is real. It's the oldest and largest university in Russia, founded in 1755. (Of course I had to look that up!)

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