Mercedes, stroke 8, Vladimir Kaminer, Russendisko, Cinema, Making of

Russendisko - the movie.

Four-wheeled chronicle.
Production: 2012 Paramount Pictures
Text: Julia Stelzner
Mercedes, stroke 8, Vladimir Kaminer, Russendisko, Cinema, Making of

From Russia with music.

For a glimpse behind the scenes of an archetypal Russian disco, simply imagine a noisy mix of Eastern European folklore and lightning-fast beats whipping up a young, boisterous crowd. To refuel and hydrate, they down copious amounts of vodka. Unadulterated and undiluted. Steadfast behind the DJ desk: Wladimir Kaminer, author and initiator of this particular Russian Disco. A staple of East Berlin’s party scene at local haunt Kaffee Burger for more than 20 years, this string of music events have become the stuff of legends far beyond the city’s limits. But that’s not all. Kaminer has dedicated an entire novel to these alcohol-fuelled parties, a story soon to be plastered all across Germany in its brand new movie adaptation guise. And this moving recollection goes far beyond the capital’s never-ending nightlife frenzy.

Staging the words.

Kaminer’s autobiographical Russian Disco, first published at the turn of the millennium and now a solid bestseller at more than 1.5 million copies sold, throws light on the early days of his Russian disco – and the months that came before. In his tales, the Jewish Russian émigré reveals how he joined his two friends Mischa and Andrej in 1990 to leave his hometown for Berlin.

The author’s vivid recollections were simply begging for a visual adaptation. Now, 12 years down the line, the edited result finally sees the light of day. Under the aegis of Oliver Ziegenbalg, Russian Disco is set to invade Germany’s cinemas with a star cast including hotly tipped wunderkind Matthias Schweighöfer (What a Man, Rubbeldiekatz and Schiller) and his on-screen sidekicks Friedrich Mücke (Friendship) as Mischa and Christian Friedel (The White Ribbon) as Andrej.

Mercedes, stroke 8, Vladimir Kaminer, Russendisko, Cinema, Making of

In order to buy their proudest possession, a Mercedes /8, the three therefore pool their official welcome payments in this movie version of Russian Disco. Joined by a love of music, women, cars and alcohol, the three on-screen friends are “always having fun” – even when funds are in short supply.

Mercedes, stroke 8, Vladimir Kaminer, Russendisko, Cinema, Making of

Mobile living quarters.

Thrift and cunning force Wladimir, Mischa and Andrej to use their old-timer for more than the odd trip to a nearby lake or to transport copious amounts of beer. Throughout the film, the limousine doubles as a getaway car, bedroom and living quarters for the clueless, yet intrepid trio. And director Oliver Ziegenbalg calls up plenty of memories of his own concerning teenage outings in a Stroke 8.

“We loved to cruise around our hood in Stroke 8,” bolstered by a sense of strength, safety and optimism. Built like a tank, the angular limousine becomes its own stronghold, yet moves around like an imposing champ. Ziegenbalg confirms this impression, “there you are, cruising around town, and everything seems easy, cool and simply great.”

Mercedes, stroke 8, Vladimir Kaminer, Russendisko, Cinema, Making of

Old-timer in cult classic.

The film’s starring actor, Matthias Schweighöfer, too, succumbed to the /8’s spell. “On set, it was great fun to drive through Berlin in this indestructible cult classic. It is simply a cool car.” After all, the /8 has an impressive history of its own as one of Germany’s undisputed best-selling cars throughout the 1970s. Nowadays, the coveted old-timer has become an integral part of Germany’s past and makes for a perfect movie icon and prop.


For further info on Russendisko, including the movie’s trailer and an introduction by the author himself, check out (German).

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