#5- 29: Whose city is this?

The screenplay for the video film “The Tower: A Songspiel”

Music by Mikhail Krutik

The Characters:

1. Gazprom PR Manager (PR Manager)

2. A Politician

3. The Head of Corporate Security (Security Chief)

4. A Church Representative (Orthodox Priest)

5. A Successful Gallery Owner (Gallery Owner)

6. A Hip Artist (Artist)

The Chorus:

1. Members of the Intelligentsia (Intelligentsia)

2. Pensioners

3. Workers

4. Fired Office Clerks (Clerks)

5. Migrant Construction Workers (Migrants)

6. A Leftist Radical (Radical)

7. Civil Rights Activists

8. Young Women

9. A Homeless Boy

10. A Giant

In the center of the stage we see a high podium on which the characters have gathered at a round table. A meeting is taking place to discuss a new image for the Gazprom tower project. There is a large black telephone in the middle of the table. A thick network of red telephone lines runs from the telephone down through the podium, spreading across the entire stage. The Chorus is situated below the podium. During the songs, it dances and moves around the podium. A camera on a dolly tracks its movements: the bad infinity of pointless gyration.

The Characters:

1. Gazprom PR Manager (PR Manager)

2. A Politician

3. The Head of Corporate Security (Security Chief)

4. A Church Representative (Orthodox Priest)

5. A Successful Gallery Owner (Gallery Owner)

6. A Hip Artist (Artist)

The Chorus:

1. Members of the Intelligentsia (Intelligentsia)

2. Pensioners

3. Workers

4. Fired Office Clerks (Clerks)

5. Migrant Construction Workers (Migrants)

6. A Leftist Radical (Radical)

7. Civil Rights Activists

8. Young Women

9. A Homeless Boy

10. A Giant

In the center of the stage we see a high podium on which the characters have gathered at a round table. A meeting is taking place to discuss a new image for the Gazprom tower project. There is a large black telephone in the middle of the table. A thick network of red telephone lines runs from the telephone down through the podium, spreading across the entire stage. The Chorus is situated below the podium. During the songs, it dances and moves around the podium. A camera on a dolly tracks its movements: the bad infinity of pointless gyration.



Scene One

First Chorus: Introduction

All the members of the Chorus face the camera and sing.


This is our country,

But our voice is not heard.

We live in a great country.

We are society.

But in the eyes of the strong and the mighty

We have no rights.

Our labor is the basis of everything!

We are just a work force.

We toil and toil,

We die before our time.

Our labor is the basis of everything!

But no one cares about us.

Our labor is the basis of everything!


We believed in the bright tomorrow.

We believed that our country

Would show us its gratitude.

But our country has no use for us.

We have lost all hope.


It’s a good country.

Lots of work.

Lots of fascists, though.

They often murder us.

What to do? Where to go?

Life at home is rotten.

Clerks: We are the people they fired,

The folks they made redundant.

For us there weren’t enough


Clerks and Young Women (in unison):

We are people who believe

In our future.

– But it’s better to emigrate!

– No! Life is good in Russia!


Intelligentsia and Civil Rights Activists:

We are the teachers and the doctors,

The creators and inventors.

But we live in poverty.


The camera gradually rises, zooming in on the PR Manager.


All (except Young Women and Migrants):

We are victims in our country.

We are victims.
The PR Manager stands on the edge of the podium and addresses the people.


PR Manager’s Speech:

Dear friends, every age has its own symbol. A symbol that not only mirrors that age, but points the way to the future. Erected on the magnificent shores of the Neva River, in the beautiful city of Petersburg, the Gazprom Tower will be the symbol of the new, modernized Russia. 403 meters is a height that is fit for the new Russia.

The tower will rise above the city like an eternal lighthouse showing us the way. The Gazprom Tower will change our lives for the better. Forward, Russia!

The PR Manager returns to the table. All the other characters give him a hearty round of applause. The PR Manager smiles in satisfaction.


PR Manager:

And so, dear colleagues, allow me to open the meeting. First, I would like to congratulate you: we’re going to build the Gazprom Tower, Our Tower! (Applause.)


Second Dialectical Chorus: On the Tower



Culture and the rule of law!

What can be superior to them?

Culture and the rule of law!

Young Women and Clerks:

We like everything that’s new!

Everything that’s cool!

We’re tired of old junk!

Build us a skyscraper!

Forward, Russia!

Pensioners and Civil Rights Activists:

We will put a halt to tasteless new buildings.

We will preserve the city’s historic look.

Its skyline is sacred.

Its skyline is sacred.

Young Women and Clerks:

We’re tired of old junk!

Build us a skyscraper!

Pensioners and Civil Rights Activists:

The skyline is sacred!

We will save our city

From greedy developers.

Gazprom, stop!

This is a crime!

Liberal Member of the Intelligentsia:

Down with the bourgeois skyscraper!


Give us a communist skyscraper!


We demand a social development plan for the city!

This is our city!

Workers: We could care less.

Build what you like.

Just pay us our wages.

But the wogs you’re importing

To work on the site

Have no place here!

They have no place here!


Young Women and Clerks:

We’re tired of old junk!

Build us a skyscraper!

Forward, Russia!


Whether we’re for or against,

It makes no difference.

It makes no difference!

It makes no difference!


Scene Two


PR Manager (continuing the speech interrupted by the Chorus):

We’ve worked hard and managed to overcome all obstacles in the way of the tower’s construction. Don’t forget that we’re building a symbol of the New Russia. For what, ideally, is Russia? It’s a very big corporation. That means it should be managed as well as our company, Gazprom. We are the nation’s elite. That means we’ve earned the right to shape the future as we see it. As our developers put it, “The best deserve the best.” (Applause.)

Gallery Owner:

It’s such a pity that our people still don’t understand the meaning of this slogan.

PR Manager:

That’s okay, give them time . . . We cannot relax, however. We’ve now been given new challenges to solve. (We are given to understand that these new tasks were communicated to him via the gigantic telephone.)

We have to communicate the symbolic importance of the Tower to society. People have to realize that the Tower is being built for their own good. As you know, however, there are still, uh . . . people who are protesting our tower. They organize demonstrations; they file lawsuits. But an attack on the tower is a direct challenge to our power!

Everyone buzzes in agreement. The PR Manager addresses the Security Chief.

We have to put an end to this, using all the means at our disposal.

Security Chief:

Our department understands what you’re asking. We will be cooperating with the Center for Extremism Prevention.

PR Manager (rubbing his hands approvingly):

That’s good, that’s lovely…

As I assess our work, I want to especially acknowledge the contribution of our dear friend the Politician. (Applause.)

My good fellow, it is thanks to your efforts and supreme professionalism that our project has enjoyed such support in the corridors of power. And this despite the fact that there are still hostile forces in the city parliament (!) who oppose the aesthetic and political might of our project.


Many thanks! (Bows.) I don’t mean to be immodest when I say that this was a serious, time-consuming task. We had an especially hard time with the courts. For some reason, certain judges got the funny idea that they could write their own rulings. They started citing all these laws and playing hard to get…

PR Manager:

Rest assured that the corporation will cover all these additional expenses. I’ve heard that you want to get a new yacht. I can give you some good tips because I myself recently . . . (He notices the Security Chief casting him a warning glance.) But we’ll talk about that later. Now we will hear your new address to the people. Are you ready?


Of course.

PR Manager:

Then the floor is yours!

The Politician gets up from his chair, straightens his jacket, and walks to the edge of the podium. He strikes a pose.

Politician’s Speech:

Ladies and gentlemen! My fellow Petersburgers! The new Gazprom Tower will bring in revenue. Not just revenue, but big money, tons of money, money for all residents of our city.

Other powerful corporations will follow Gazprom to the city, and then we’ll have even more money! We’ll build artificial islands in the Gulf of Finland, places where the business elite can work and relax in a manner that becomes them. Our city will become the Dubai of the North. Just think about it! We were the Venice of the North, but we’ll become the Dubai of the North. We have to keep in step with the times. And the first step in this direction is the Gazprom Tower.

Some people criticize us. They say we’re violating the building height regulations in this district. This is not true. We’re not violating the law – we’re making an exception to the law. What is this Tower, after all? It’s a symbol of the New Russia. And what is a symbol? It’s an exception, and that means it’s above the law. It makes its own laws. It’s the Law itself! The new law of our lives!

The camera slowly moves back to frame the chorus in a wide shot. The red telephone lines begin to grow thicker. For the time being, however, no one notices this.


Third Dialectical Chorus: On the Laws



No one is above the law.

Law is the foundation of civil society.


The rich control the laws!


Might makes right.

Might makes right.

A prison regime:

Such is law of our lives.

Civil Rights Activists:

Law must defend culture!


If you look for problems

You’ll find them.

Keep quiet and you won’t have problems.

Don’t stick your neck out.

Don’t protest.

Don’t meddle in politics

And everything will be okay.

Everything will be okay!

Radical (screaming):

Down with the extremism of the authorities!


Might makes right.

The knife is mighty:

that means it’s right

The cop is mighty:

that mean he’s right!


Beauty! That’s what will unite us!

We will rise up together

In defense of our city’s beauty.

Our city’s beauty!


Might makes you rich.

If you’re rich, you’re the boss.

The boss builds things, and we work.

The boss is the law.


We will close our ranks!

Everyone to the defense of beauty!

Clerks and Young Women:

Give us new beauty!

We’re tired of your old junk!


All (except Clerks and Young Women):

The cops torture, steal, and murder.

The courts and the prosecutors cover them.

The authorities confiscate everything to line their pockets.

If you fight the power, you’re a goner.

If you complain, they’ll take your last ruble.

If you protest, you’ll be disappeared.

Pensioners, Intelligentsia, Civil Rights Activists, and Radical:

Down with the tower!

Down with the tower!

Down with the tower!

Clerks (looking around anxiously):

Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!


Scene Three


The Politician returns to his place at the table. The mood of this scene is fairly playful. The Gallery Owner sets the tone.

Gallery Owner (gradually becoming more agitated, practically chanting by the end of the speech):

What a beautiful speech! The tower as the symbolic law! There’s something Nietzschean about this. Everything is permitted! Some people call our “The Corncob,” others, “The Phallus.” Yes, the Phallus! Or better yet, it’s a knife. Yes, a knife stabbed into the body of this sleepy country!

Security Chief: Excuse me?

Gallery Owner (slightly confused):

I was saying that it’s a knife stabbed into the body of this sleepy country… It is a metaphor…

PR Manager:

That’s okay… Please go on. I like the way you’re thinking about the significance of the power vertical.

Gallery Owner:

It’s just that we (points to the Artist) have just come back from an art fair in Dubai, where we presented my gallery. I was enchanted by the scale and power of the city. There’s nothing in the world like it. It shows you what power can create when it’s completely unfettered. Those sheiks are simply charming!


As an artist, I can tell you that it is comparable with the power of art to create new worlds.

Gallery Owner:

How can you not love authorities that behave so decisively, passionately, and ferociously? Not loving the authorities is like not loving life itself!

PR Manager:

You’ve put your finger on it! Perhaps you could say the same thing to the people?

Gallery Owner: Of course! I’m ready.

She goes to address the people. She stands prettily on the edge of the podium.

Gallery Owner’s Speech:

Dear friends! This tower is a symbol of our government’s love for its people, a symbol of their love for you, our dear countrymen! You should just see what they’ve designed for you. In addition to offices, there will be a huge sports and entertainment center, with swimming pools and covered skating rinks! There will be a whole passel of museums: an archaeological museum, a war museum, and, most important, the contemporary art museum I intend to run. Residents and guests of our city will also always be able to go to the very top of our tower, to the observation deck, something everyone can access. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city from the observation deck. And a real sense of freedom, an intoxicating feeling of freedom! My friends! You see that the authorities love you! Let us respond to them in kind. Not loving the authorities is like not loving life itself!

A wide shot of the Chorus. The telephone lines have become even thicker, but they are still not frightening. During their song, the members of the chorus enjoy playing with them each in their own way. The Young Women twirl them like red pigtails, while the Pensioners fiddle with them as if they are knitting.


Fourth Dialectical Chorus: On Love


Young Women:

There’s nothing in life

Lovelier than Love!


Power is violence!

Young Women:

We’ll be as free

As birds!


Might makes right!

The powerful force us to love them!

Female Clerk:

There will be many offices

In this tower.

Maybe I’ll be able

To find work there.

And there, perhaps,

I’ll meet the love of my life . . .


Where there is no freedom,

There can be no love!

Young Women:

We’ll be free

As birds!

Female Civil Rights Activist (keening):

People! They’ve raped us!

They’ve stolen everything we had!

Taken away our freedom!

And now they want our love!


We have to fight for our freedom!


Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!


Fight for freedom!


The authorities should be like a loving father,

Strict and just,

Who punishes the guilty,

Supports good folks,

And gives money to every pensioner!

Homeless Boy:

Well, I’m free!

Dad is dead,

And Mom’s a drunk.

I live on the streets.

The trick is to avoid the cops,

And getting sent to the orphanage.

It’s horrible there.

Young Women:

There’s nothing in life

Lovelier than Love!


Scene Four


The Gallery Owner returns to her seat. There is restrained applause, although the board members smile at her approvingly.

Orthodox Priest:

As a representative of the Church, I quite definitely share the idea that the authorities and the people should be united by mutual love, that the authorities should shed fatherly love on their progeny. The Orthodox Church, however, has certain doubts about the correct interpretation of this tower’s symbolism. Its shape resembles a tongue of flame. But what kind of flame is it? Some Orthodox believers are of the opinion that this is a flame bursting forth from Hell.

PR Manager:

How could you think such a thing!

Orthodox Priest:

It’s not us who thinks this, but our flock.

PR Manager:

But we wholeheartedly support all the undertakings of our Church!

Orthodox Priest:

That is as it should be . . .

PR Manager:

Right now, for example, we’re doing everything can to ensure that the Church finally gets back all its property, all the icons and other ecclesiastical paraphernalia that are still housed in museums.

Orthodox Priest:

We approve of your efforts . . .

PR Manager (reproachfully): And this despite the fact that a part of your flock somehow believes these artworks will be ruined when the Church gets its hands on them.

Orthodox Priest (yielding):

Well, all right. If you pledge us your support in this charitable cause and in a number of others . . .

PR Manager:

You shouldn’t doubt it!

Orthodox Priest:

…then we shall consider how we might reinterpret this symbol. What do you think, say, of a candle flame prayerfully ascending to Heaven?

PR Manager:

Wonderful! This image synchs excellently with our rebranding. Perhaps you’d like to address the people?

Orthodox Priest:

Why not?

Orthodox Priest’s Speech:

Dear brothers and sisters! Citizens of our multi-confessional Russia! It is time to set aside all our feuds: wealth is also a gift from God. The Gazprom Tower is a symbol of reconciliation, a symbol of a new Russia modernized on the basis of Orthodox values. For what is modernization without a firm moral foundation? It is nothing! Only Orthodoxy can provide the peoples of our country with this foundation. And just as Christianity once spread along the roads of Rome, so now must Orthodoxy spread via the pipelines of Gazprom. Wherever there are Russian pipelines, there will be Orthodox churches, missionary schools, and books. And the head office, the Gazprom Tower, will rise above us like a candle flame prayerfully ascending to Heaven!

A wide shot of the Chorus. The telephone lines are swelling with ever-greater force. They have spilled out from the walls of the podium and have begun to make it hard for the Chorus to move around. During the song, the Giant carries one of the red tentacles – he has a tough time of it. The other members of the Chorus try to avoid the tentacles, but this is already almost impossible.


Fourth Dialectical Chorus:

On Faith and Wealth


Intelligentsia and Civil Rights Activists:

Church officials are in cahoots

With the anti-democratic authorities!

Their candle will blacken our sky!


The Church is a symbol of respect and prestige.

You shouldn’t slander the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox God is a career booster.

Success rests firmly on faith.


As they say:

The richer the rich get

The kinder they become.

Clerks: We believe!

Workers: We don’t!

Civil Rights Activist (screaming):

The constitution separates church and state!


They say that

The richer the rich get

The better it is for society:

The wealth of the rich grows

And a bit trickles down

To the poor.

Young Women:

We believe!


We don’t!

Radical (screaming):

Religion is the opium of the people!


The cops torture, steal, and murder.

The courts and the prosecutors cover them.

The authorities confiscate everything, line their pockets,

And help the rich.

Radical (screaming):

And the Church blesses this!


Scene Five


The Orthodox Priest returns to the table. Everyone smiles and applauds.


You used such a precise metaphor in your speech: “A candle ascending to Heaven.”

PR Manager:

Yes, it seems we’ve found the right architectural image. It’s not for nothing that we commissioned the best architectural firm in the world to work on our project. And what does contemporary art have to say?

Gallery Owner:

I’ve invited a renowned artist to our meeting today. (The Artist bows.) He has won numerous contemporary art prizes. His works are highly regarded at art fairs the world over, and they are collected by oligarchs and high-ranking Russian politicians.


I’m flattered. It is a great honor for me to attend this meeting.

Gallery Owner:

Besides, we have something to show you.


The Artist takes out an object and passes it round the table. It resembles an enormous gilded cigar. Everyone is slightly taken aback. They examine the object in amazement and even with squeamishness as they pass it to each other.


You see before you an object from a major new cycle that I’ve given the working title “Unity in Silence.” I hope that you’ve caught the gist of the project. The concept alludes to Alain Badiou’s idea of ultra-oneness and Theodor Adorno’s notion of the modernist artwork’s silence. The core was fashioned from the wood of a 200-year-old cedar tree on Mount Athos, and then covered in gold leaf.

Orthodox Priest:

Gold leaf?


Yes, Father, gold leaf. I applied the gold leaf personally, and my palm print is on each piece.

All (hesitantly):

Hmm . . . Lovely . . .

Gallery Owner:

See how successfully the artist has fused radical western formalism and our great national tradition.

PR Manager (still in doubt):

Yes… Perhaps… (Addressing everyone else) What is your opinion?


Well, I think that “Silence in Unity” doesn’t sound bad!


Excuse me, the title is “Unity in Silence”!

Orthodox Priest:

This is a serious work, of course, but I think it’s too abstract. It’s time we gave thought to the educational role of art. The people need a positive example. They need moral guideposts.

Gallery Owner:

Of course! And for that purpose we want to install a hall of fame in the new museum of contemporary art that I hope to direct. It will feature portraits of our country’s great men: corporate bosses, regional leaders, generals who have glorified our armed forces in confrontations with our enemies, PR managers who direct the branding campaigns for fresh and brilliant conservative ideas, and church fathers who tirelessly fulfill their pastoral mission.

Orthodox Priest:

That’s good. We approve of this.

Gallery Owner:

And our artist would paint these portraits in his own inimitable manner.

PR Manager:

Yes . . . Inimitable manner . . . Well, let’s give it a try. (Addressing the Gallery Owner) I trust that our investments won’t be wasted?

Gallery Owner:

I guarantee it!

PR Manager:

Great. If the board of directors approves your works, you can count on a big commission. Our tower is huge, with tons of offices! Besides, we’re thinking about putting a big sculpture in front of the entrance, twenty meters high or so. And that cigar of yours will go well with our cigarette lighter!


I already have a great idea for it!

PR Manager:

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Now it’s time for you to address the people.


You think I can?

PR Manager:



Okay, I’ll do it.

He jumps up quickly and grabs the object from the table.

PR Manager: Please leave that here.

The Security Chief hides the object under the table.

Artist’s Speech:  Dear friends! Let’s recall how the great masterpieces of the Renaissance were produced. They would have been impossible without the patronage of the Church and the oligarchic families of the time. So it is today: contemporary Russian art is developing with the support of intelligent, affluent people. These thoughtful people are willing to invest their money in authentically political art. They realize that the genuine protest of the civically minded artist against social injustice must be incarnated in silent, magnificent art objects. Being genuinely political means being silent!

Petersburg is renowned for its museums of classical art. But we need new art, art that is part of the contemporary world but which continues our best national traditions: the avant-garde and icon painting. With the patronage of Gazprom we’ll create this art. Enough of vegetating in the backwoods! This art will be presented on the international art scene, and Petersburg will be flooded with tourists hungry to see works by Russian artists in their natural habitat, in a city forever crowned by our avant-garde will!


The Artist returns to his place at the table. A wide shot of the Chorus. The telephone “octopus” has expanded in all directions, its fattened tentacles entangling all the members of the Chorus. During the song, the Migrants attempt to carry one of the tentacles as if it were a heavy log. It falls on the Homeless Boy, suffocates the Workers, and hinders the Young Women, who are still dancing merrily.


Fifth Dialectical Chorus: On Art



In Russia, a poet is more than a poet!

He is not one for this world.

He suffers

And often goes hungry.

And the world doesn’t understand him,

But he brings us truth

And speaks to our hearts.

That’s what an artist should be!

But this guy is a sly merchant,

Not a real creator!


The artist in the service of capital! Shame! Shame!

Young Women and Clerks:

All that matters is that

It’s groovy,

Tons of fun and not lame.


The artists have sold out!

They want to sate their bellies!


Drinking beer and going to the match,

That’s the best entertainment.

The trick is getting paid

So you can take out a loan to buy a new TV.


This tower is pretty as a minaret:

We like the shape.

But our jobs

They want to give to Arabs.

Where to find money?

How to help our families?


The cops torture, steal, and murder.

The courts and the prosecutors cover them.

The authorities confiscate everything, line their pockets,

And help the rich.

Radical (screaming):

And the Church blesses all of this!

Liberal Member of the Intelligentsia:

And the artists decorate this power!

Scene Six

A shot of the meeting table. We hear the sounds of an unseen demonstration, sounds that grow louder and louder. All the characters are confused and frightened. The Gallery Owner and the Artist huddle together. The Security Chief nervously talks with his guards on a walkie-talkie.

Sounds from the Demonstration (shouted and chanted):

– And I tell you that they’re building the tower to guide US missiles!

– What of it? It’s pretty, it’s pretty, I tell you!

– They’re going to destroy Russia!

– Down with the tower!

– Down with the tower!

– Down with the tower!

– The bureaucrats buy themselves beds made of gold!

– They’ve begun taking kids from their parents for unpaid debts!

– They’re using our cars to build barricades for criminals!

– They falsify everything!

– If the cops beat you up, then it’s you who goes to jail!

– Down with the tower!

– Down with the tower!

– Down with the tower!

We hear security guards and cops shouting at the Chorus members to disperse. The sounds from the demonstration continue to be heard, rolling over the meeting room in waves.

PR Manager (addressing the Security Chief):

What’s with the noise? It’s distracting us from our work.

Security Chief:

Don’t worry. Everything’s under control. Some losers are showing off. My guys are sorting them out.

PR Manager (becoming furious):

What, again? I hope it won’t be like last time. If your guys deal with it like they did before, then I’m afraid you might lose your job. I’ve told you before: we’re all for a forceful response, but not when journalists are present! And don’t lay a hand on the journalists! It’s much easier to buy them off. But your guards just had to show up to the public hearing and beat the crap out of people. Our national leader ordered us to whack enemies in the outhouse, not in front of TV cameras! Our country is a democracy, have you forgotten? We have to convince people. The trick is to find the words the people want to hear, and then you don’t need to use force. The words have to be pretty, concise, and persuasive.

The telephone rings. A close-up of the telephone from above.

The PR Manager’s reaches for the receiver.


The PR Manager picks up the receiver. Close-up shot.

Hello . . . Yes, this is he . . .


Fired? . . .

All of us? . . .

We failed our task? . . .

Yes, but . . .A new team has been hired? . . .

We’ve discredited a great idea? . . .

A new concept . . .

Clear out my office . . .

The following scene is silent.

In a wide shot, the camera begins to slowly pan downward from the group at the table, who are frozen in fright, to the Chorus. The tracking shot begins with a medium-wide shot, and so we see the Chorus bit by bit as it were. First we see the hand of one of the Workers grasping the edge of the podium, then the face of the Giant, who clenches a red tentacle. As the camera pulls back, the shot widens and we see that the members of the Chorus are frozen still, as if in the wake of a disaster. It appears that a terrible explosion has taken place, and the red telephone “octopus” has broken loose. It has covered and upended everyone with its swollen, fat tentacles. Now it is sated and calm. The members of the Chorus are not dead: they just do not move.

This scene is accompanied by music, “The String Quartet of Impotence.”

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