Soviet Union Table of Contents
A long tradition of classic and monumental films created by film makers such as Sergei Eisenstein served the regime's intent of portraying a strong socialist society (see Society and Culture in the 1920s , ch. 2). The party dictated the themes and issues that Soviet film makers would depict.
In the late 1980s, the film industry underwent dramatic changes as the CPSU allowed film makers to analyze social dilemmas and propose remedies. From 1986 to 1988, three important developments occurred within the film making leadership. First, film makers banded together to remove conservative bureaucrats from the Union of Cinematographers and to replace them with younger, bolder, and more innovative directors. Second, these changes led to the formation of the Disputes Committee within the union headed by an important, more open-minded Pravda critic in order to examine approximately sixty films that had been "withheld" without any proper justification. Included in these prohibited films were three directed by the new head of the Union of Cinematographers, Elem Klimov. Third, the official state organ controlling cinema, Goskino, was forced to yield to an ever-increasing number of union demands for greater cinematic freedom. Previously, film makers who wanted to produce films were required to please Goskino and the censors. Box office success was unimportant. In the late 1980s, film makers won the right to have their films judged on their merits. As a result, success for film makers meant producing money-making ventures. They no longer required the full professional and financial support of Goskino.
The CPSU Central Committee also reduced the power and influence of the Ministry of Culture's Main Repertory Administration (Glavnoe repertuaknoe upravlenie--Glavrepertkom), the official film-release control apparatus. By the end of 1986, many previously banned or withheld films were showing in movie theaters. Yet as of 1988, Glavrepertkom continued to wield substantial censorship influence, with its reach extending to theaters, circuses, concerts, phonograph records, and general musical productions.
One of the most adventuresome film makers was a seasoned film professional, Iulii Raizman. Born in 1903, Raizman survived many tribulations during the oppressive eras of Soviet film making. He poignantly explored such themes as family trauma, societal immorality, materialism and corruption, and economic deprivation. His Private Life (1982) explores the ordeals of a factory manager who, when forced into retirement, realizes that he has sacrificed time with his family. A Time of Wishes (1984) examines how women endure their inferior lot in society. Raizman has gained such renown, particularly as head of Mosfilm studios in Moscow, that he has been able to initiate the production of progressive films and has supported efforts of younger, aspiring, and creative film makers to voice their concerns through their works.
The relaxation of controls over film making has also permitted the release of numerous films that had been restricted for many years. Four such prominent films released were Klimov's Agoniia and Come and See, Aleksei German's My Friend Ivan Lapshin, and Tengiz Abuladze's Repentance. Known in the West as Rasputin, Klimov's Agoniia presents a more balanced view of Tsar Nicholas II than that historically taught in the school systems, and it also contains religious overtones. The film maintains an unusual silence regarding the Bolshevik Revolution. Klimov completed Agoniia in 1975, but it was not released until 1985. In Come and See, Klimov captures the horrors of war from a typical Soviet perspective, that of destruction symbolized not only by the Nazi genocide but also by the premonition of nuclear holocaust.
The other two films deal with some of the horrors of the Stalin period. German's My Friend Ivan Lapshin, which required three years for approval after it had been completed, contains an investigation said to depict innocent people being persecuted during Stalin's reign of terror. Abuladze's Repentance created a stir throughout the Soviet Union as well as the outside world. Written in 1982, produced in 1984, and approved for public viewing in 1987, Repentance concentrates on the crimes of the Stalin era and the evil involved in the arrests of innocent people, some of whom were later executed. The dictator portrayed supposedly is based on a number of evil men in recent history, the most important of whom are Stalin and his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria. Echoes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini are also evident in the dictator's appearance. Not only was the film viewed as an overt attack on Stalinism but it also was intended to shock Soviet citizens and raise their political consciousness to prevent a recurrence of these horrors. Evtushenko has likened the film to "the cultural event of Gorbachev's cultural thaw, just as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich represented the spiritual acme of the Khrushchev era." As Gorbachev stressed in a speech on the seventieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in a 1987 Central Committee plenum, such films are more openly watched in a society encouraged to reassess itself and ensure that "no forgotten names and no blank pages . . . of the years of industrialization and collectivization" be left untouched.
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents