‘Dear comrades’: the contradictions of the USSR | Culture

The Russian octogenarian Andrei Konchalovski, six decades acting as a voice of conscience on some of the great political and social events of his people throughout the 20th century, in films as important as The story of Asia Klachina, who loved but did not want to marry, banned for 22 years in your country; The first teacher, the monumental Siberian and the recent Paradise, still in the gap with the remarkable Dear comrades, special jury prize at the last Venice festival, which delves into one of the most terrible episodes of the thaw era with Nikita Khrushchev at the helm: the Novocherkassk massacre, inflicted by the Soviet army and KGB snipers in the first days of June 1962 against a crowd of strikers and peaceful supporters of an engine factory in the small town near Rostov, during one of their protests after a food crisis. Between 70 and 80 people could be killed, according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s study in Gulag archipelago.

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In icy black and white with little contrast, and with a 1.33: 1 screen compressor format, Konchalovski applies himself to showing the general contradictions of communism within the personal inconsistencies of the female protagonist: director of the party committee in the city , in addition to being a factory worker, who searches for her daughter, possibly dead, during the second half of the story, after having herself encouraged the authorities to “execute” the activists to end their vagrancy and alcoholism. Thus, while food prices rise and the government’s self-imposed rations of basic products do not reach everyone in the village, the corruption of the leaders and the shenanigans of the bureaucrats allow a certain elite to live almost as bourgeois. A global and individual dichotomy that moves a formalist and at the same time crude film, marked by moral and political ambiguity at that moment when ideals collide with emotional, sentimental and personal practice.

“Can’t be faulted. The walls hear ”, it is said in a script line, before the secret is imposed from above after the massacre: disappearance of bodies, imposition of silence on doctors and nurses, control of correspondence and the telephone, accused cleaning of the square where the shooting took place because of the blood of the dead and wounded adhering to the asphalt. “They will not dare to shoot their people” said the younger generations. They did not know the mechanisms of dictatorships, whatever their sign. And the wise old Konchalovsky is still here to show the paradox of certain saviors of the working people.

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