Screen heroes under totalitarian rule

Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state holds total authority over society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life where necessary. It is an appalling political system to live under, and yet its exploration and depiction in film can make for great cinema. Why? Because, from a dramatic standpoint, […]

The marks of a thief-in-law

Brought to popular western culture in the contemporary film Eastern Promises directed by David Cronenberg, and now on display at the Saatchi Gallery in the post-Soviet portraits of Sergei Vasiliev, the tattoo code language of criminals in the USSR had its roots far earlier, in Stalin’s Russia, amongst the thieves-in-law (vory v zakonye) – the […]

Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun

Slovo, Vol. 9, No.1, 1996 Mikhalkov’s tale of life in the Russian countryside in the mid-1930s is an apparently idyllic one. A man and a woman deeply in love, a child they adore, and a family they cherish. The characters sing and dance in a beautiful and harmonious setting. But the destructive glare of Stalin […]