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June 1946: Stalin invites Russian emigres to return to the motherland. It's a trap: when a ship-load from France arrives in Odessa, only a physician and his family are spared execution or prison. He and his French wife (her passport ripped up) are sent to Kiev. She wants to return to France immediately; he knows that they are captives and must watch every step. By chance, she meets a touring French actress and pleads for help. She also takes a young swimmer under her wing, and several years later, he makes a bold attempt to escape. Meanwhile, the KGB is suspicious, and hope for freedom is dim. Patience, her husband's self control, and her good looks may be their only assets. Written by
When Marie goes to the KGB building in Kiev and Alexei finds her there, persuading her to leave, the viewer can read a sign on the building that says, in Cyrillic letters, "Ministerstvo na..." This is a Bulgarian genitive construction, meaning "The Ministry of..." The only Slavic languages that show the genitive case in this fashion are Bulgarian and Macedonian. The genitive case is marked differently in Russian and Ukrainian, which shows that the "KGB" building could not actually have been in Kiev. This makes sense because the film was partially shot in Bulgaria. See more »
In 1946, Stalin invites Russian émigrés to return, in patriotic fervor, to help rebuild from WWII. Unbeknownst to them, all returnees are considered imperialists and spies, and are to be treated accordingly. "East-West" explores this nightmare scenario through the eyes of a family who returned; a Russian doctor, his French wife and their young son. Because of his doctoring skills he is spared the Gulag or execution, but his life in Kiev is certainly not what his wife is used to. The collision of cultures, the hardships, and the Stalinist tyranny all take a deep toll as they struggle to survive and escape.
Dark, and claustrophobic, this is a gripping tale from beginning to end. And it is in the end a great love story, of devotion and sacrifice. At the showing I attended the tears flowed freely in the audience. I recommend it highly.
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