Trailer: ‘Dear Comrades’ Viscerally Recounts an Extraordinary Soviet Horror
The timing of the release of the new Andrei Konchalovsky film Dear Comrades is curiously appropriate. Based on a true story, it depicts the 1962 uprising in Novocherkassk, USSR, which was violently put down by the Soviet forces. The people were merely protesting an unmanageable rise in food prices.
The first trailer arrives just a week after a small army of American Trump supporters stormed their own Capitol in Washington, DC – and this time, the violence was perpetrated by the people…with Congressional operatives as the “target.”
Exalted director Konchalovsky, at 83, is as vital and relevant as ever. His new Michelangelo biopic Sin comes to virtual cinemas on February 19; and Dear Comrades, which premiered to raves at the Venice Film Festival (The New Yorker called it “his masterpiece”) gets a virtual release on January 29 via NEON, and will be available on demand and streaming on Hulu as of February 5.
The Novocherkassk massacre is still an open wound to this day, with Soviet coverups leading to the total number of deaths being reported at 26 – though it was likely much deadlier than that. But the film itself revolves around Lyuda (a visceral performance by Juliya Vysotskaya), a middling level party functionary. She exhibits all the usual behaviors of unwavering loyalty to the cause, until her daughter, a factory worker, goes missing in the massacre. She is then forced to reckon with her own misguided devotion to the party line, even as she is fraudulently assured that “Soviet soldiers would never shoot at the people.”
But as hope of finding her daughter grows dim, she abjectly wails, “How am I supposed to forget this?” The party, of course, believed everyone should and must.
It is a striking reminder of how all systems, some more than others, manipulate the trust of their citizens to retain control over them – and thus hang on to power for as long as possible. In the context of what has unfolded in these United States of America over the last four years, the parallels between the time and place Dear Comrades depicts, and those we live in now, might be unsettlingly on display.