Back in the good old days of the Soviet Empire, artists could only show dissent through their art. It was disguised to be acceptable but it was there. "Chernovik" is the same in current cinematic form. It is a complete and total condemnation of Soviet (or any form) of Socialism (Communism). It is simply a gigantic metaphor for life inside the PARTY and outside viewed from someone who has never been inside. In a funny way, the movie kind of resembles another fantasy movie about the wonderful benefits of being "inside" when one is outside: "El Norte."
When one is "chosen" (Not in the Chaim Potok way.) all things are possible but these benefits come with a price: The system must be sustained or it will perish. How is that done in the movie? Through water. Chosen ones are called Functionaries and while they have seemingly limitless power and benefit, it comes with the price of being a petty bureaucrat with some essential function. If they stray too far from their primary function, they must have water or they start dissolving. As it works out, the people inside, Functionaries, are subject to the same kind of totalitarian rule as are the people outside except that they have more things available.
In the movie, the access to more "stuff" is carried out by new Functionaries discovering that anything they wish is theirs. Our hero has the job of a customs official and he must live in a tower and create new worlds for other functionaries to visit. Every so often, a Functionaries' place of work is inspected by other Functionary bureaucrats to make sure all is in order. Early on, our hero is told there are only two avenues: Power and a woman. Our poor unfortunate has fallen in love with a woman who in real life has rejected him pretty soundly. But populating his fantasy into being chosen, this woman keeps popping up and he has decided to help her escape her dilemma and finally capture her heart. She is his Lara in Pasternak's tale. But here she is any number of different embodiments.
I watched it with my wife, and when I explained what was going on, she looked at me like a poodle looks at a wristwatch (No, I'm not calling my wife a poodle or a dog. She had no concept of what I was describing and I thought the poodle telling time by looking at a wristwatch was appropriate. Dogs, according to the latest research, have no sense of time.) But she was befuddled by the movie as, I am sure, are many other people.
This movie is not simple fantasy set in the backdrop of Red Square. It is a cutting sardonic look at life under totalitarian rule as seen by the average person. It is one of the best condemnations of single party rule and the excess of government. Even those who think they have it made "inside the system" are simply slaves to the same system enslaving those outside.
Review by ted-peterson from the Internet Movie Database.