The movie is a proof that anything can be turned into propaganda. It is a Stalin era textbook illustration of one and only viewpoint on Russian literature of the 1840-1850s. This movie helps to indoctrinate it with a finesse of a hammer. The characters look absurdly caricature, the dialogs of "progressive" heroes are full of Soviet-style preaching, there are even passages hinting at the cold war rhetoric (i.e. condemnation of western parliamentarian system, even a brief reference to slavery and extermination of Native Americans in the USA). Villains are typical. Everybody speaks as if they are already planning and foreseeing Bolshevik (no other) revolution and the arrival of the Dear Leader who will make their lives and work worth something. How many people will bother reading the critic, and not just excerpts in the secondary school program and how many people watched and continue to watch this movie? They air this Stalinist opus in modern Russia too, a new generation should know no repentance or any regrets about the past, and sneaking ideas or visuals from the period helps.
The movie should be popular now as ever, as many motifs relate to current ideology very well: Russia has its own incredible path and future, the west is horrible, etc. Even the citation from Lenin at the end falls into proper place. Thus the current rating is no surprise. The movie is not meant to be watched by westerners - it's one of those for internal consumption/ It's obscure enough, and is mostly watched by the chunk of population nostalgic about the times of the Genius of the Nations. So the high score is no surprise and as with almost any IMDb rating for the movie from the USSR is absolutely meaningless. "A sudji kto?" - 'Who are the judges' to cite the classic.
As far as movie-making itself, the directors had talent, so if it would have been possible to disregard the context, the film is quite accomplished.
A tiny bit of trivia - one of the directors, Trauberg literally soiled himself in Stalin's office when Stalin yelled at him criticizing his work. He thought he'd be sent to Lubyanka torturers. Make your own conclusions.
The movie-making could be such a prostituted occupation. At the very least the creator had to conform and collaborate with the regime and then get his pieces of silver. Some call this pair, Trauberg and Kozintsev "classics" of the Soviet cinema. To me "good servants" is a better definition. And they were very nice and interesting people I knew in person, but sadly this still doesn't change the greater picture. We are what we create in this life.
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