The Reel Review
This historical drama depicts the June 1962 Soviet massacre of people protesting slashed wages and soaring food prices in Novocherkassk, a city in the southeastern corner of Russia, near Rostov-on-Don. Between 29 and 80 unarmed people died in the massacre, which the Soviet government hid from the public for three decades.
The story is told from the perspective of Lyuda, a local Communist Party official and true believer, who longs for the days of Stalin while enjoying the special perks of her position, as those around her endure growing hardship. It is only after Lyuda narrowly escapes the deadly massacre and learns her daughter is missing that she starts to question her blind devotion to the authoritarian regime. She is racked with guilt, wondering if the violent government response she had enthusiastically supported has killed her only child.
Through black and white cinematography, a 4:3 aspect ratio and some very accurate period costume and set design, director Andrey Konchalovsky transports the viewer into that era in Soviet history. The scenes of the massacre have a subtle, almost surreal feel to them, heightened by the Soviet government’s incompetence and attempts to cover up their crimes. Yulia Vysotskaya, as Lyuda, is extremely compelling as the woman whose entire belief system is rocked to its core.
• It was not until after the 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union that details of the 1962 massacre in Novocherkassk came to light. 26 bodies were exhumed from surrounding cemeteries and moved to a memorial. Dozens more were never found.
• Dear Comrades! is Russia’s Oscar entry for Best International Feature Film. It is one of 15 films shortlisted in the category.
• Yuliya Vysotskaya, actress and host of the NTV cooking show Lets Eat at Home, has been married to Dear Comrades! director Andrey Konchalovsky since 1998. They have two children together.
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