A downloadable thought-piece

Goncharov and masculine motion

We see weaponry on screen frequently, but in this classic Mafia piece, one scene reframes it to mean so much more.

By Peter Martingell

In modern media, when there is a shotgun on screen, you're practically guaranteed 'the reload' will come next. It comes after a joke, or before a hurrah. It ensures you know that in one of the following scenes someone, somewhere, will be slammed into a wall; their body coated in drips of shell. It's a tool and symbol.

For something so fundamental to the gangster flick, Goncharov uses this killing device to explore a new angle: How is a mafioso 'supposed' to use a shotgun? How are they 'supposed' to hold it to intimidate with? How do you perceive 'your' gun? And how do others actually perceive it?

Across the movie the queer subtext peeks through cracks in the dialogue, shadowing the characters as they move between scenes, but one in particular - the quiet teaching moment between Goncharov and Andrey in the warehouse basement -  exposes itself to be far more pronounced. The tension used carefully in the film builds drastically in a small personal dialogue between the two men, discussing through action how to use a shotgun to portray themselves, hinting at how they look at each other. All throughout, the queer gaze is hinted at via camera and sound.

Now this scene, when written down, can easily be glossed over as "In a quiet isolated space a veteran teaches a rookie how to use a gun without killing himself". That's it. But of course, the presentation of that gives it the implications we salivate over.

Goncharov is a veteran of the mafia, a man who's used all manner of weaponry to inflict mortal peril on those his bosses direct him at. And Andrey, the newbie, needs his help. Andrey's fumbling hands had almost costed the life of another man not days before; he's on his last few lives as the 'black cat' of the group. But Goncharov takes pity on him (why? as a paternal figure, or a romantic one?), finding a quiet moment for them both to practice. He ends up going back to that dark hidden space of the warehouse used earlier in the movie as an interrogation room: accidentally (or intentionally) picking somewhere few people pass through, selecting a transitional space where events can occur that reshape people discreetly (or massively). And in this isolated area, is one where two men can be alone for a long period of time without anyone stumbling across them (or at least, not without making a sound that would let two men brace themselves). We're in a zone where they can truly present themselves without fear. But they still maintain that fear, that bravado.

Not even a few shots into this scene we see the messages in play: We enter the same way a shell does, darkness before a door is opened, revealing a controlling hand feeling for something behind the camera. It picks at some shells, rolling bundles of cylindrical mass. The fingers collect a couple of shells, roll them around, and we jump to them being loaded into the magazine, thumb pressing with simple, smooth, strong motions. Andrey is joking about his inability to use weaponry, Goncharov is calm. He's done this before (has he? or is he simply posturing?).

"You know the basics, but you fucked the most important part" breaks his silence after loading. Goncharov is holding 'His Gun' in not a provocative manner, but instead a superior manner: "You droop it down like you ain't hung they'll see you weak. You need to point it at 'em, you need to be direct and show them how large you are." says Goncharov, coated in a soft light formerly reserved for gentle violence. Andrey holds his gaze on the man, then quickly glances to the barrel when he's caught by the camera, the lens peeking past Goncharov's shoulder.  Confused, attracted.

As the scene continues, we learn how Goncharov holds himself, how he uses His Gun to control an imaginary room, or street.

To be masculine means no weakness, to be dominant. But with a gay lens? It twists: you are being weak, in a way. You are being an object for someone else, and you're showing off how much you want to be seen as an object, because you want to dominate the view and mind of someone else. (At least for a certain kind of guy - different strokes for different folks of course)

Goncharov: "Men get the job done here, Men get the work, Men do the suffering."
Katya: "That sounds like a painful way to live."
G: "It pays the bills."
K: "What bills? The ones you pretend to owe now that you're 'made'? Do you even remember where you started from?"

The following shots throughout the scene all linger in some way: how Goncharov stands, how he holds the barrel, how he points the gun, how it silhouettes in the light; they all linger for just too long. But contrasting it, we cut quickly to key features that are intepreted in a different way: a cut to his firm hand grip on the stock, shining under the warehouse light. A cut to Andrey's features, sensing the metallic danger (in what way?). And each cut, each one progressively suggesting more, then perhaps even outright declaring just what - exactly - we ought to be focusing on.

"You paying attention right?" alarms both the camera and Andrey into what we actually need to be looking at though: how to kill, how to reload, how to be a tough guy. "You load and rack it, you fire then rack it. You empty the chamber? Use this as a bat." says Goncharov as he does the classic motion of the shotgun: hold, slam the forearm, extend. Shell ejected with a murmur.

Following that, he then swings it through the air. Aims. A killing device pointing into shadow - at a scared civilian? or an enemy? We can't tell because Goncharov's figure is just a blurred glow in our view.

He reloads, he mimes a shot. He aims, he mimes, he reloads. Shells ejecting from 'His Gun'.

But throughout this, the camera focuses elsewhere instead. It shows the ejected shells tumbling onto the floor then sliding away, it shows Goncharov's frame as the chambering noise repeats in the background, it shows his forearms & biceps impact the metal bat onto a ghostly foe. But it doesn't show neither mans face, neither the gun. Implying, that we all know what both look like.

And when Goncharov finishes his spiel, we finally see his focus in this scene of lingering shots. He too is holding his gaze. Not on Andrey, not on 'his gun', not on anything but: his target.

All throughout this scene there's been a third person in the room: a vague shape of a man made of paper. That 3rd person has always been staring, sitting in the background. Looming over this conversation. Keeping an eye on what Goncharov & Andrey are saying to each other. Looming.

Because being manly in the mafia means no weakness. So even when you're 'alone' from the rest of the organisation, these two men need to portray themselves correctly. Being in control is the only valid state.

And that's what Goncharov focuses on to stop himself from meeting Andrey's eyes. Because the haunting knowledge of being found out as interested in masculinity beyond intimidation scares them. Which is why they need a gun, why they need to know how to handle it. Why they need to cock it in the right way.

Because being isolated from the only support structure they know is their true fear.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars
(2 total ratings)
Tagsanalysis, Atmospheric, Erotic, film, Gay, goncharov, gun, mafia, movie, shotgun


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Gorgeous, thoughtful, and creative. This is a wonderful addition to the Goncharov canon.


This was deliciously intense. Wonderfully wrought.