Cold Summer of 1953 (1987)
September 2nd, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 4,831 Views
I think I have seen this grim movie once about 20 years ago. It’s the last role and last film starring Anatoli Papanov, one of the greatest and beloved Soviet actors. The plot is quite simple. In 1953, after Stalin’s death, Nikita Khruschev became secretary general of the Communist Party, and denounced Stalin as a murderous dictator. The country was not ready for it because people warshiped Stalin for more then three decades. Shock! Later it turned out to be of of the reasons for Khruschev’s demise and a little conspiracy organized by Brejnev to replace him, but no matter. Lavrenty Beria, who was an all-powerful Minister of Interior and primarily responsible for “repression” of some 7-50 million people (historians differ here a lot), declared amnesty in commemoration of comrade Stalin’s death. Beria, however, was also denounced by Khrustchev, arrested and executed by gun squad as a traitor and enemy of the State and People. Amnesty was completely indiscriminate. Millions of hardened criminals and political prisoners alike were released under their own recognizance. A band of these criminals had taken over a small village where two amnestied political prisoners are waiting for the arrival of the boat, which leads to the stand-off.
The subject of Stalin’s repressions came back to the foreground during Perestroyka and Glasnost period in USSR when Mikhail Gorbachev became Secretary General, hence this movie.
Although the plot seems like a typical setup for a western, it is anything but. As a matter of fact, the government ordered this movie and it was supposed to be a simple detective story. It’s a real drama, with a lot of tension, very complex characters, and great acting and photography. It shows how true nature of people comes out under threat of death. For many in USSR in this period looking death in the eye was nothing new so soon after the war. Everybody knew how to shoot a gun too. I did not like this movie 20 years ago, but now that I am much older there’s so much to see… Actor Papanov was also a war veteran and was Artillery Sergeant. After he was wounded in 1942, he spent 6 months in hospitals. At age of 21 he became permanently disabled and used cane for the rest of his life. He took acting classes and began working in theatre and movies from 1946. In after 41 years of career in theatre, he was awarded the People’s Actor designation in ’70s. He is best known for his roles in Leonid Gaidai’s comedies including “Diamond Arm”, which has an all-time box-office record in USSR of 76,000,000 admissions in theatres. In 1995 “Diamond Arm” was voted “The Best Soviet Comedy Ever” in a poll. Netflix has it.
DVD has English and French dubbing and subtitles. You will find a lot of archive footage about Beria and Stalin together with commentary of director Proshkin on DVD as well.
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