SPECIAL PRIZE FOR THE OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN THE CAREER OF ACTING AND DEVOTION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF K.STANISLAVSKY'S SCHOOL
There is such a lad. Even though Sergey Nikonenko wasn’t in the film with this title which was made by his friend Vasiliy Shukshin, this phrase perfectly describes the typecast that the young actor was mostly seen as, in the cinema of the 60s. The type of a common guy - neither a poster hero of the Stalin era, nor a postcard dandy of the Thaw cinema - but a rather simple man who doesn’t stand out in the crowd, but at the same time is honest, firm and open - one of our own. Sergey Nikonenko both tried to dispute the apparent one-dimensionality of such character - first with many of his roles and then with many of his own films, and to go along with it - but he also always strived to shift it a bit: yes, this man is common, but he is in no way simple.
He was going against the type when he surprised his master, Sergey Gerasimov who liked to typecast him, like with the role of the provincial editor-in-chief in “The Journalist” (1968), when he decided he wanted more, and entered his directorial workshop. And again - when he offered the audience an unfamiliar interpretation of a person who fought on the winning side of war; not a celebratory interpretation, but contradictory, problematic and somewhat bitter - such as his hero Kolya in Miklós Jancsó’s “My Way Home” (1964), an unexpected and masterful take on the end of the World War II. And again - when he suggested to see Sergey Yesenin (in Sergey Urusevskiy’s “Sing Your Song, Poet” in 1971) as something more than the contemporary cinema allowed with its motto of “let’s be thankful it’s not forbidden”. Nikonenko later recalled how he surprised the director by reciting Yesenin’s poems (when at first the dubbing was supposed to be done by another actor), making the role more deep and profound; many years later, he also found his own museum of the poet.
He elaborated on the image of a common man when he offered his own interpretation of the Shukshin’s “muzhiks”, rooted in the Russian earth but apt to daydreaming (in “Yolki-palki”, 1988). Or when he created a whole gallery of portraits of honest policemen - from the titular hero of “Traffic Officer” who almost fanatically guards both the letter and the spirit of the law (1982, dir. Eldor Urazbaev), to the Colonel Gordeev in popular film series “Kamenskaya” (1999 - 2011). The former appeared when the total rampage of corruption was merely foreshadowed, while the latter came to be when a mere concept of an “honest cop” seemed outdated. Sergey Nikonenko always carried his characters’ honesty proudly - seeing this as not only acting duty but a civil one. And he was - and still is - believed. Which is proven once again by the homonymous award of the 43 MIFF.