On her death bed, Claudia Ivanovna Petukhova, an aged Russian aristocrat, entrusts her son-in-law with a strictly guarded secret. She reveals that she had hidden her valuable jewellery in one of the twelve salon chairs that were appropriated by the authorities after the Russian Revolution. Her son-in-law, Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, is a former nobleman and a dandy who is currently wasting away as a small-town magistrate in charge of civil marriages. He eagerly takes up the quest to find the treasure. Meanwhile, over the years, the twelve chairs have been dispersed to the furthest corners of the country. However, Vorobyaninov is not the only one in pursuit of the treasure. Hot on the trail of the diamonds is Ostap Bender, a clever and colourful con artist. They are pursued by Father Fyodor, a priest to whom the wealthy aristocrat has also confessed her secret. Thus begins a wild chase that wends its way from North to South, West to East, across water and countryside, from village to city. The film is based on the eponymous novel by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, one of the most delightful descriptions of the turbulent conditions that prevailed in the fledgling Soviet Union during the nineteen-twenties.
by Ulrike Ottinger
with Georgi Delijew, Genadi Skarga, Swetlana Djagiljewa, Boris Rajew, Olga Rawitzkaja