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The world after the nuclear apocalypse. Pale light lits the scenery of total destruction. The surviving humans vegetate in wet cellars under the nuclear winter. But somehow human spirit still sees somewhere the dim light of a new and better future. The next generation starts the walk towards a new life. Written by
Jens Bertheau <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The filmmakers took great care to continuously remind their viewers that what they're seeing is not happening in the Soviet Union. To ensure this, a lot of foreign items have been placed in the backgrounds which surely immediately caught the eye of the contemporary viewer. There is not a single object with Cyrillic letters, but there are plenty with English ones. Many items are Western consumer goods which were rare in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Particular examples are beer cans and a bottle of Jagermeister on a desk. The weapons the soldiers wield are also not even resembling Soviet rifles which would've been familiar to all viewers who completed their military services. They look more like a strange "crossbreed" of American M-16 and M-1 rifles. The vehicle the soldiers are using is a MAZ missile trailer truck, but the same vehicle was also built for the civilian market and sold to many countries. The helicopter that shows up in one of the scenes is a Kamov Ka-26 which was never used by the Soviet military (and in fact only one Warsaw Pact country did, Hungary). The hovercraft that is seen turning and leaving is also not a (known) military vehicle, but anyone in the 1980s should've associated the image with the air-cushion ferries on the English Channel which were a famous and novel technical achievement at the time. See more »
This "Letters from a Dead Man" simply has got to be, hands down, one of the top three most depressing and pessimistic movies I ever encountered in my life. Of all Sci-Fi films dealing with remnants of life after the apocalypse and believe me they are quite numerous this Soviet Union produced sleeper upraises the most nightmarishly realistic and harrowing atmosphere ever. Even in your worst imaginable nightmares and premonitions, the post-nuclear existence probably still doesn't look as decayed and melancholic as illustrated here in this film. Survivors are forced to live underground, in the caves and catacombs of destroyed buildings, and have little else to do but watch each other fading away emotionally as well as physically. They can't go the surface without wearing special outfits and gas masks, but even then there's nothing else to do but stroll around between ruins, car wrecks and rotting corpses. With monotonous photography and the exclusive use of a yellow-tinted picture, director Konstantin Lopushansky (an acolyte of the Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky) fabricates the ideally lugubrious ambiance, and he can also rely on the devoted cast and bleakly void screenplay to assist.
The story revolves on Rolan Bykov as a scientist former Nobel Price winner, even who entrenched himself underneath the remnants of a library building along with his wife and a handful of co-workers. The titular letters are addressed to his son whom the scientist hasn't seen or heard from since the catastrophe. The letters and above all the hope his son is still alive somewhere is what keeps the poor man going, but how long can you hold on to hope when you see everything and everyone around you dying? "Letters from a Dead Man" is a difficult but ultimately very rewarding cinematic experience to endure. Difficult, of course, because of the emotionally devastating imagery and atmosphere, and because there's actually very little substantial content. We literally stare at a handful of people languishing and eventually dying, with only a small hint at hope near the end. And rewarding because of the depiction of genuine humane sentiments and the thought-provoking messages. It's also highly remarkable how "Letters from a Dead Man" remains continuously vague regarding the cause of the apocalypse and eventually even searches the guilt in the own heart. In a time where movies released on the other side of the Iron Curtain (in Europe and particularly the USA) routinely blamed Russia for the potentially upcoming apocalypse, this tale suggests the root cause of the catastrophe lies in a human error during the launch of a space shuttle. The entire cast gives away tremendous performances. I don't know if these people are veteran actors and actresses in their home countries, but their grimaces and catatonic behavior suggest that they were selected especially for this type of discouraging parable. Fantastic film; though obviously not fit for all occasions and/or audiences.
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