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'Serf' comedy becomes top grossing Russian film

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Moscow (AFP)

A comedy that tells the story of a misbehaving rich kid waking up as a 19th century serf has become the highest grossing Russian film of all time in its home market.

Since its release in late December, "Serf" has garnered more than 3 billion rubles ($47 million) in Russia and a number of post-Soviet countries known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, kinobusiness.com, the film industry website, said on Monday.

Only James Cameron's sci-fi epic "Avatar", which grossed 3.6 billion rubles ($57 million) in the country, has raked more in the box office so far.

Directed by US-educated Klim Shipenko and starring Serbian actor Milos Bikovic, the film tells the story of Grisha, an entitled rich young man who one day wakes up in the 19th century and finds out he's a serf.

In reality, Grisha's oligarch father, fed up with his son's shenanigans, had teamed up with a psychologist to build a simulated 19th century village to re-educate his son who believes he has traveled back in time after a car accident.

"We could not expect such success but we dreamt about it," the 36-year-old Shipenko told AFP. He said a number of factors were at play including the time of the release, its appeal to a wide audience and pure "luck."

Speaking in an interview with Meduza news website, Shipenko compared his film to "The Truman Show", a 1998 American science fiction comedy-drama starring Jim Carrey, and said his movie made people both laugh and cry.

"It's a summery movie," he said, adding that moviegoers wanted to have a good laugh and escape Russia's winter, especially during the long New Year's holidays.

Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta said the movie combines elements of a melodrama, period sitcom and action film and appeals to both young and older audiences.

"We were not afraid of touching upon serious subjects," Shipenko told Novaya Gazeta, adding that the main character turns to God in the end of the film.

Witnesses said that after the screenings many in the audience stood up to applaud and some cried out "Bravo".

The film outstripped the previous box-office hit -- a 2017 sports drama "Three seconds."

More than 11.5 million people have watched the movie so far, said kinobusiness.com.

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