Tag: The Chekist

Doctor Zhivago

You know a movie’s going to be good when it opens with an overture. I’ve actually not seen any other films that have one (though a few people on twitter have informed me that it used to be fairly common for old film epics), but I knew it was a promising start to this latest film about Soviet-induced misery, Doctor Zhivago.

Unlike the last two installments, which were either obscure (The Chekist) or at least not very well-known in the United States (Katyn), Zhivago is one of the better-known Hollywood epics, and “epic” is just the right word for it – with a wide-ranging plot and a run-time of three hours and twenty minutes, it’s a project just to watch. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t feel that long; the pacing if fairly quick, and it never dwells on a particular scene for very long. It’s also a visually interesting film, with a variety of settings and some unusual camerawork (e.g., following a character by looking in through outside windows). A bit distractingly, one can also play a game of “place the accent;” it has a mix of American and British actors, a couple French minor characters, and a couple guys who do a Russian accent, which is rather confusing.

Anyway, the plot is well-constructed, and though the characters are believable I didn’t find any that I particularly liked. Many minor characters come and go, and the two female leads aren’t particularly interesting, though Lara does have more personality than Tonya. Zhivago himself is a little too idealistic for me, and though this kind of character often does have an appeal, a couple incidents killed most of the sympathy I had for him. One was putting Lara and her daughter in danger because he didn’t want to accept help from the unsavoury Komarovsky, as well as carrying on an adulterous affair with Lara in the first place.…

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Katyn: Can’t Get Enough of that Mass-Murder Jazz

Since the last film I saw about Commie democide was such good times, how could I resist more? Unfortunately, it’s slim pickings in the murderous Marxism genre; I had to go to Russia for The Chekist, and this time I had to look to Poland, for 2007’s Katyn. (As an aside, shouldn’t there be more movies like this? We Americans fought a decades-long Cold War against Communist states, and while there are several films featuring them as villains, there’s not really a Western film that I’m aware of that’s like a Soviet Schindler’s List. Instead, there are only these relatively recent Polish and Russian films.)

As one can easily guess, Katyn covers the Katyn Forest massacre, albeit somewhat indirectly. In an interview included as a DVD special feature, director Andrzej Wajda discusses how he’d wanted to make this film for a long time because of his family’s connection to the massacre. His father was among the victims, but he ultimately decided to draw more from his mother’s experience at home. So, while we do see the massacre and some of the treatment of the prisoners, most of the film focuses on one officer’s family during and after the war.…

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A Short Review of The Chekist

The shortest way to describe The Chekist, which covers the 1920’s mass executions carried out by the Cheka, the early Soviet Union’s secret police, would be to call it a Holocaust movie, but instead of National Socialists we have International Socialists. That does give the film, directed by  Aleksandr Rogozhkin, some novelty value since, though I can think of several films off the top of my head that deal with Nazism, if not the Holocaust specifically, the only movie I can think of to cover Communist massacres is the Polish film Katyn. If nothing else, for those who have a visceral reaction to the word “Nazi” but not “Communist,” this film should help fix that.…

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