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This black-and-white historical drama by Russian master director Andrei Konchalovsky makes it abundantly clear just how strained the relationship between private and political could be in the Soviet Union.
Working with his regular screenwriting partner Elena Kiseleva, he wrote the script which deals with a bloodily repressed strike by workers in the city of Novocherkassk in southern Russia in 1962. This ruthless action by the Soviet state against a citizens’ protest remained a well-kept secret: it wasn’t until the 1990s that people in Russia found out what actually happened.
Lead actor Julia Vysotskaya, Konchalovsky’s partner, was born in this city in 1972, but even she knew little about what actually took place there. She plays a Soviet bureaucrat who unintentionally plays a key role in unleashing the State’s violence against its citizens. The impressive scenes of countless extras meeting, protesting, fighting or fleeing, provide a good illustration of how State and citizen can be played off against one another, taking on an almost timeless urgency.