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Dead Man's Letters (1986)

Pisma myortvogo cheloveka (original title)
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 ... See full summary »
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Cast overview:
Rolan Bykov ...
The Professor
Iosif Ryklin
Viktor Mikhaylov
Aleksandr Sabinin
Nora Gryakalova
Vera Mayorova
Vatslav Dvorzhetsky
Svetlana Smirnova
Nikolai Alkanov
Vadim Lobanov


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 <bertheau@mi-lab.fh-furtwangen.de>

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Drama | Sci-Fi


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Release Date:

September 1986 (Soviet Union)  »

Also Known As:

Cartas de un hombre muerto  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film was part of a 1980s cycle of films about atomic bombs and nuclear warfare which had started in 1979 with The China Syndrome (1979). The films included Silkwood (1983), Testament (1983), Threads (1984), WarGames (1983), The Day After (1983), The Atomic Cafe (1982), The Manhattan Project (1986), Whoops Apocalypse (1982), Special Bulletin (1983), Ground Zero (1987), Barefoot Gen (Barefoot Gen (1983)), Rules of Engagement (1989), When the Wind Blows (1986), Letters from a Dead Man (Dead Man's Letters (1986)), Memoirs of a Survivor (1981) and The Chain Reaction (1980). See more »

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User Reviews

Very Soviet and very shocking
4 August 2014 | by (Hungary) – See all my reviews

To fully understand this movie you should understand the mindset and milieu of the Eastern Bloc - preferably the Soviet Union - of the 1980s, in the height of the Cold War. This movie is radically different from Western post-apocalyptic movies like 'The Day After' or 'Threads' which deal with the very materialistic side of a nuclear holocaust, like the effects of bombs and life after the war. This Soviet movie is not a spectacle and its aim is far from simply entertaining or scaring. It ponders on the philosophic and moral side of a nuclear war, a suicide of mankind and whether it's inevitable or not.

There is barely any storyline. The main character is an unnamed scientist who lives in a makeshift shelter under a museum, among saved relics from all eras of history and some of his surviving colleagues. Being all scientists they are trying to grapple the whole point of what happened. There are no names, except for the wife and son of this scientist: Anna and Eric. Eric is presumably dead as he was outside when the bombs exploded. Nevertheless the scientist keeps writing letters to him, in a form of a diary, which is more to save his last thoughts of the world than actually meant to be delivered someday.

The pace of this film is just as slow and time would be in such a situation. Soviet art movies were not bound by economic constraints so it did not matter to their makers whether the tickets will sell well or not. Modern moviegoers would find the entire thing profoundly boring, and even the most dedicated movie hipster would look at the clock time to time. Being this slow is part of the image the movie builds. Just like the characters, the viewer is also immersed in an endless waiting, never to know whether something is going to change or happen. You actually have to watch it to the very end to see. Don't expect rich experiences. In such a dull and dead world it's a rare gift to see anything happen.

Interestingly, the makers took great care to emphasize that this is not happening in the Soviet Union. Or more exactly, it could happen, but this particular place is not a Soviet city. There is not a single object in the background with Cyrillic letters on it, but there are a lot of things with English labels, some are even consumer goods rare behind the Iron Curtain at that time. German beer cans float in the water - canned beer was a curiosity that time - and a bottle of Jagermeister is seen on a desk. Canned foods are also foreign, with English labels. Even the soldiers carry weapons that look like a crossbreed of American M-16 and M-1 rifles. It's a small detail, but back then every able-bodied Soviet men were familiar with Soviet military equipment, having spent years as a conscript, and this clue is giving away that the scene takes place in a foreign country. Even the military vehicles were selected to keep this illusion. The helicopter is a Ka-26 which was never used by the military (in the Soviet Union at least), the large truck is a MAZ missile trailer, but there was also a civilian version of it. The then- futuristic hovercraft that appears for no apparent reason was an experimental vehicle at the time, but such vehicles were already operating as ferries on the English Channel, and were praised as a great technical advancement of the time.

I'd generally recommend this movie for those who are desperate enough to take a plunge into a strange, lost civilization's vision of the violent end of the world. Not a date movie, except if your date is a hardcore movie culture fanatic or grew up in the Soviet Union.

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