1962's Amphibian Man (Человек-амфибия) is the story of tragic love between an intensely pretty fish man and an intensely pretty human girl. This Soviet fantasy film pushes Communism a little bit but it thankfully never gets in the way of this really sweet, beautiful story.
Set in Argentina but filmed in Azerbaijan, the story begins with a girl named Guttiere (Anastasiya Vertinskaya) being menaced by sharks while swimming near her father's pearling craft. Fortunately she's rescued by a mysterious silvery being called the Sea Devil. Later, after the two meet again on land, she knows him by his own really cool name, Ichthyander (Vladimir Korenev), though she doesn't learn for some time he was the one who saved her from the sea floor.
She faces another shark in her personal life, the wealthy Pedro Zurita (Mikhail Kozakov), who is basically buying Guttiere as a wife through the debts her father (Anatoli Smiranin) owes him. Obviously there's a dig at Capitalism here, especially since Ichthyander's father, Professor Salvator (Nikolay Simonov), dreams of creating an underwater Republic where everyone is equal. He considers Ichthyander the first citizen--the boy had bad lungs when he was born so Salvator replaced them with shark gills, enabling him to breathe underwater. When Salvator's friend, a reporter named Olsen (Vladien Davydov), complimented his skill in surgery I thought it was quite an understatement.
But Ichthyander isn't interested in any high minded governing philosophies. He's young and in love--he escapes from his father's compound and wanders the streets for the first time, drawn by the siren call of jazz and folk music.
Everyone seems to be singing about calling men back from the sea, too. It's a nice effect. He braves the city traffic and angry street vendors to find love.
I love how the colour in old Soviet fantasy films looks like birthday cake. I also miss the days when filmmakers, whatever their nationality, tried to think of creative ways to show a character transitioning into a dream sequence or memory. There's a really lovely bit where Ichthyander's musing face dissolves into stars as he fantasises about swimming with Guttiere.
One could even find a faint critique of the Soviet Union in the film's presentation of the impossibility of a patently unreal Communist ideal ultimately unable to connect with the real world. There's an elegiac quality to the film's preoccupation with a nice but impossible dream.
Twitter Sonnet #1097
A whale of tea reports a heavy drop.
A starry band contains the second lake.
Around the bend the beaches must be cropped.
Like points of wings the ripples brightly bake.
A tilted lamp acknowledged torchless swords.
Impatience stops a piled dust to light.
As countless feet were walking to the boards.
The silhouette returned to set it right.
In dreams of weirder pipes the trees were free.
A lasting gum completes the trailer set.
Completed ants obliged a subbing bee.
A silver suit emerged a trifle wet.
The mem'ry grew in dreamy velvet stars.
The ocean floor would glow for distant Mars.