January 14, 2021
Andrei Konchalovsky’s account of the day Red Army soldiers and KGB snipers opened fire on strikers is a rage-filled triumph
Dear Comrades! review – searing account of a Soviet-era massacre | Peter Bradshaws film of the week
Anger burns a hole through the screen in this stark monochrome picture from veteran director Andrei Konchalovsky: a gruelling re-enactment of the hushed-up Novocherkassk massacre in western Russia in 1962, when Red Army soldiers and KGB snipers opened fire on unarmed striking workers, killing an estimated 80 people. It was a day of spiritual nausea for the Soviet Union, which had only just entered Khrushchev’s new de-Stalinised era of supposed enlightenment – a postwar civilian bloodbath that was the Soviets’ Sharpeville, or Kent State, or Bloody Sunday, or indeed the Corpus Christi massacre in Mexico City that featured in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.
Yuliya Vysotskaya – a longtime Konchalovsky player – plays Lyuda, a Communist party official and single mother who lives in a tiny flat in Novocherkassk with her 18-year-old daughter Svetka (Yuliya Burova) and grizzled old dad (Sergei Erlish). There are terrible food shortages, yet Lyuda is a loyal and uncomplaining party member who not so secretly pines for the good old days of Josef Stalin, when the Soviet Union was bathed in glorious wartime destiny and when things seemed to be better all round. Now she is having a furtive affair with a cynical and bleary married committee official who doesn’t even seem to like her very much.
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