Dear Comrades! (2020) Poster

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8/10
The Dangers of Ideologies
evanston_dad19 February 2021
A woman who has staunchly devoted herself to building a Communist state in Russia in the 1960s is forced into a moral reckoning when the conflict between her ideology and those rebelling against it gets personal.

Yuliya Vysotskaya delivers a taut, sensational performance as Lyuda, a woman whose daughter is among those missing after a deadly riot at a factory. Suddenly, big picture ideals and abstract ambitions collapse around her and her entire life becomes laser focused on finding out whether or not her daughter is still alive. To an American audience watching this movie in 2021, it is impossible not to see our own cultural dilemma reflected, not necessarily in the specifics, but rather in the general attitudes. The Soviet Union of 1962 looks a lot like the United States now, with different factions of our country wanting completely opposite things and determined not to budge an inch.

"Dear Comrades!" has a lean spareness to it that I liked. It feels like hardly a frame is wasted, and it's all captured in striking black and white.

Grade: A-
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10/10
Andrey Konchalovskiy is still here
dromasca6 November 2020
'Dear Comrades' (2020) presented in world wide premiere at the Venice Film Festival where it won the special jury award proves that at the age of 83 Andrey Konchalovskiy is not satisfied with just being a living legend. The screenwriter of the first films of Andrei Tarkovsky, the director who joined Tarkovsky and his own younger brother Nikita Mikhalkov in making outstanding movies in the '70s that signaled in cinema, before Gorbachev's 'glasnost', the thaw that was to come, has returned to Russia in the last decades after a stormy stage in Hollywood and makes a significant film every few years. 'Dear Comrades' is one of the best of his career, a haunting description of a dark episode of totalitarian repression in the Soviet era, a film that can be said to come a few decades too late but is still relevant today, as any good lesson in history is important in the actuality. It is in any case a remarkable film both in content and in the way the message is transformed into images and transmitted to viewers.

The confusion of values and the gap between ideals and reality dominate the film. The period in which the action takes place is one of those considered relatively 'liberal' in the history of the USSR, the one in which Khrushchev was in power. He had denounced Stalin's crimes (to which he had been an accomplice at least through passivity) after his death, but continued a policy of competition with the West outside and of repression inside. In order to achieve their ambitious economic plans, the Soviet leaders subjected the population to severe economic shortages and any attempt at revolt was suppressed, if necessary by force. Confusion reigned among the population. "In Stalin's time, prices were falling, now they are rising," we hear Soviet citizens in the Don area where the film's action takes place complaining. Young people and workers naively believe in the apparent democratization and in the rights enshrined in the Constitution, but when they claim them and resort to strikes and demonstrations to protest against economic problems, the response of the party and of and its tools of repression are bullets and arrests. Lyuda, the main heroine of the film (played exceptionally by Yuliya Vysotskaya) is an activist in the city party committee, not very important in rank, but significant enough to benefit from direct supply from food warehouses while her fellow citizens stand in endless lines for anything . She is indoctrinated and longs for Stalin ('in his time I knew who the enemies were'). When her daughter (Yuliya Burova), a factory worker, disappears after the demonstrations are stifled in blood, her devotion to the party is put to the test. Her disabled and alcoholic father (Sergei Erlish) keeps in his chest the uniform of the Cossack and the icon of the Mother of God on the Don, connections hidden in fear with a past that the authorities want forgotten and buried. Ideological dilemmas and gaps dominate the relations between generations in the conditions in which truth cannot be spoken even between parents and children within the walls of their own homes.

The cinematography is cold, almost documentary. Konchalovskiy uses black and white film and the 4: 3 screen format specific to the Mosfilm studios in the years when the story takes place. The endless meetings of the party bureaucracy, corruption and cowardice of activists, the intervention of the leaders of the 'center', food queues and material deprivation, fear of the KGB, all these will be familiar to spectators who lived in the Eastern Europe before the fall of Communism. Humanity appears where we do not expect it - human gestures of solidarity of simple people, the refusal of some officers to arm their soldiers against the workers, the KGB member who helps Lyuda in the most difficult moments. What seems different is the ideological confusion that the characters seem to be dominated by. Lyuda is unable to live in a different system of reference than the communist one ('without communism what are we left with?'). Adoration of Stalin seems to be a kind of Stockholm complex that escapes any logic. Konchalovskiy doesn't even try to explain it. Can this attitude be considered a symbol of Russia's history in the last century? The answers are left to the spectators.
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10/10
If we don't have Communism, what will we have?
Red-12527 March 2021
The Russian film Dorogie tovarishchi (2020) was shown in the U. S. with the title Dear Comrades! It was co-written and directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy.

The outstanding actor Yuliya Vysotskaya portrays Lyuda, a local Communist official. Lyuda truly believes in the Soviet government--she's not a anti-Communist in disguise. When problems occur, she's a hard-liner.

Problems do arise. In fact, the events depicted, known as the Novocherkassk massacre, took place in 1962. The Wikipedia account of the events is certainly parallel to what's shown in the film.

However, this isn't a documentary. The plot revolves around Lyuda and her daughter, which personalizes the film for us.

It's clear to me that the present Russian government wants these events to be known. Dear Comrades! Was the official Russian entry for the 93rd Academy Awards.

We saw this movie courtesy of the Rochester Labor Film Festival. It would work better on the large screen, but at the moment that's not a possibility. Dear Comrades! Has an acceptable IMDb rating of 7.2. However, I thought it was a brilliant movie, and rated it 10.
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9/10
Fourth amazing collaboration of scriptwriter/director Konchalovsky and co-scriptwriter Kiseleva
JuguAbraham18 February 2021
Winner of major awards at Venice and Chicago film festivals 2020., and one of top 5 picked by the National Board of Review, USA, it is a remarkable screenplay written by the director and his co-scriptwriter Kiseleva (they have collaborated on 4 feature films, 3 of which I have seen) with the director's wife Yulia Vysostskaya playing the main role. Their works are slow paced but gather steam only as you reach the thought-provoking and stunning ends in each film. The one film that eluded me thus far of the 4 films is "Sin" (2019), a biopic on sculptor/painter Michelangelo, a copy of which was presented to the Pope by Putin. And the Pope is apparently an admirer of the director. One damning aside in the script is that Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Sholokov's "And Quiet Flows the Don" did not present the full truth of the events in the novel as one would have assumed it did. The award winning "Paradise" and "The Postman's White Nights" are the other wonderful works from the team. Reminds one of the late collaborations on the films of director Ken Loach with writer Paul Laverty, David Lean with writer Robert Bolt, and of Kieslowski with writer Piesiewicz in the evening of the respective director's careers.
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Konchalovsky's very fine and beautfully shot drama
gortx13 April 2021
The sight of massed workers marching against the Soviet government demanding MORE Communism may strike many as strange, yet it is just one of the many seeming contradictions here. Director and Co-Writer Andrey Konchalovskiy (RUNAWAY TRAIN, INNER CIRCLE) has fashioned his tale (with Elena Kiseleva) out of a tragic 1962 incident where factory workers were shot at by government officials leaving at least 26 dead.

Lyuda (Yuliya Vysotskaya; the Director's wife) is a committee member for the town of Novocherkassk. As an apparatchik, she eats and drinks better than those she serves. When we first see her she's in the midst of an affair with a married official. Her daughter is an agitator at the factory in question. And, her father hasn't lived down his anti-government views from his youth. Lyuda is clearly supposed to represent the many hypocrisies of the Soviet system. When the fateful day occurs, Lyuda is caught in the middle of the literal crossfire.

Konchalovsky builds his movie slowly. The details of the bureaucracy are laid out as are the intertwined loyalties which abound. The truth is both impossible to discern, but, seemingly frowned up. Andrey Naydenov shoots brilliantly in stark Black & White and framed in classic 1:37 aspect ratio. There is no musical score, only traditional Soviet music, often propaganda heard in the background. Even with this bleak style Konchalovsky manages to finagle a underlying streak of bitter humor. Chairman Nikita Khrushchev's policies were so unpopular that many Soviets were pining for a return of genocidal former leader Joseph Stalin. Just over two years after the massacre, Khrushchev would himself be forced out of office. No matter how much the events effect her personally, Lyuda is both a true believer and a blind loyalist - and, can't distinguish the two. Vysotskaya's performance superbly navigates her character's (and that of her country) paradoxes with skill and vigor. As does DEAR COMRADES! Itself.
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8/10
The movie that destroys socialism
isaacochoterena20 January 2022
This film is a harsh criticism of socialism and its leaders.

From a perspective located in the sixties, this film manages to expose various situations in which socialist governments contradict each other, reflecting their hypocrisy and their bad way of governing. Although the story begins very slowly, then it is more dynamic and much harsher, in the film it is also evident how a mother can risk everything for her children. The film has excellent production design, has great photography, good acting, good character development, and has a very interpretive ending. The movie is so great that it even feels like we're watching a documentary because of its fitting 1960s setting.

The narrative of this film is great, as well as it is visually exquisite, although at the beginning it seems a bit slow and has an interpretive ending, the way it approaches the subject and its originality compared to other films today is magnificent.
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6/10
Oh Dear
bryangary6520 May 2021
Though important to know about other countries history, found this film emotionless and slow going.
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9/10
A despiritualised "Paradise"
Come-and-Review8 September 2020
The photography in "Dear Comrades" reminds very closely Konchalovsky's 2016 film, Ray (Paradise): 4:3 aspect ratio, black and white, digital camera usage. Yet, the two films are strongly different, although they somehow feel intrinsically connected.

"Dear Comrades" describes a workers strike occured in 1962 in Novocherkassk that was controversially smothered in blood, as seen from the point of view of a local party member (Yuliya Vyotskaya, who also the leading role in "Paradise").

It was impossible for me not to compare this film with Eisenstein's 1925 masterpiece "The Strike", which also features a revolution of the workers but against a zarist government. It is interesting to see how the tables have turned, and that same soviet government that threw over the zarist government acts exactly the same way. The film had also a bit of an "Ida" vibe, again minus the spiritual elements, and the ending sequence felt much like a classic hollywood drama's finale, intentionally so, which I found somewhat fitting to the slightly satyrical nature of the title.

Let me be clear: this film is far from a satyre, it depicts with an almost Bressonian simplicity the dynamics of power and secrecy that were central to the functioning of the Soviet Union.

Unlike the 2016 film, Dear Comrades has no spiritual dimension, it is strongly linked to the presentation of facts, as it should be, given the strong materialist/soviet tone of its story. Similarly to Paradise, though, it shows the brainwashing effects of the Stalinist era: the lead character has, until the end, a nostalgic attitude towards Stalin, whom she defends even when confronted with the gruesome crimes committed in his name.

I hope that Dear Comrades gets distributed widely. Konchalovsky has been directing very outstanding films the whole decade, and this is yet another one of them.
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8/10
Can violence make a blind enthusiast see?
denis-2379119 January 2021
Gripping portrayal of the bloody downthrow of the 1962 workers' uprise in Novocherkassk, told through the eyes of a convinced Soviet member of local government whose daughter goes missing after the incident that the KGB makes a government secret and seals off the city. Beautifully shot in black and white, with unusual camera perspectives, picture compositions and orchestrated movement within the frame. Excellent performance by the main actress and very skillful directing. Moving dramaturgy, despite a seeming gap in the middle and a relatively open ending, which give room for interpretation and pondering. Very worthwhile cinema.
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7/10
The complicit silence
MiguelAReina1 February 2021
Konchalovsky builds a look at communism from the silent accomplices, those who know nothing or want to know nothing. This social brainwashing causes the protagonist to long for Stalin, even though she faces the horrors of the KGB. The film has a frenetic pace, of constant dynamism, although in this case the 4: 3 screen, and its unbalanced frames, does not seem the best format for the story. There is a casual look that however does not hide the drama of the story.
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5/10
Much suffering but no criticism
erikstuborn13 August 2021
In 1962, during the Kruchev era, a mature woman with an important local position and nostalgic for the Stalin era, who lives with the privileges of having a Party card, will suddenly discover what the Soviet revolution has become, and how this unknown world affects her closest environment.

The film accurately reconstructs the aesthetics and characters of the Soviet cinema of the 50's. Watching it I was reminded of that jewel that is still 'When the storks pass by' (Letiat zhuravlí) (1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov, a clear, simple film, with pristine images, that is very critical of the war but that in the end recovers from its pain to raise its fist and defend the conquests of the Soviet people. In other words, it's a film without twists and turns, that's just the way it is and that's the way it is. However, the resemblance to 'Dear Comrades' ends there, in the aesthetics.

(Konchalovskiy is a director in tune with the current neo-Soviet system and one of its pampered artists. On IMdB we can read that the president of Russia took his film about Michelangelo Buonarroti on his visit to the Pope in Rome and organized a private screening as a gift to the pontiff. )

From the first hour of 'Dear Comrades' the director subjects his leading actress to an ordeal of pain and suffering, collapse of her values, fear for her own and for her own life, to show us the corruption of power, until the penultimate minute. What happens at the end? This is where you get the shock: when all seemed lost... Tachaaan! Things are fixed, as in a sweetened movie of the worst Hollywood. In fact the final sentence is 'Everything is going to be better'.

To make a political film without getting into politics (and especially without being critical) is a stylistic exercise, from which one can come out more or less successful, but it will never be a solid and brilliant work.

What we see is a long and tortuous journey to end up landing on Dorothy's yellow brick road. A disappointment.
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6/10
Should've been shorter and without unnecessary nudity scenes
CreaTik27 December 2021
In general this is a good movie that tells a historic sad event in the Soviet Union, great acting which we always expect from the Russians, but I didn't understand the necessity of the two nude scenes in the beginning of the movie!!

The movie was a little bit slow in some areas so I believe 120 minutes could have been edited into 90 eventful fast paced movie.
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9/10
Secret Soviet crime brilliantly shown
MoviecriticElyn26 November 2020
In the movie you can sense the whole crescendo of this Soviet secret crime fo 1962, by following a very eager communist woman , interpreted by director's wife Julija Visotskaya. At first we see her condemning all rebels and even saying that all should be killed. But...she also has a very young, adolescent daughter who is at the square when the shooting occurs... I was not expecting SUCH a good cinema, though. Love the movie, compliments to the team! The added value of the movie is the surreal REAL atmosphere of soviet union. Perfect music choice, almost moving!!! A must see!
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9/10
To fight oppresive communism you need more socialism ...
shibolleth12 April 2021
A very good and, in some respects, brave film. But also smart. It's interesting how liberal reviewers, and not only here at imdb, missed the main character of this film, the socialist youth and workers, most of society, who go about their desire for socialism and not for liberalism (or conservatism for that matter). It's about them and not about the leading lady (only some kind of catalyst for the whole story) who works through her delusions and her possible tragedy. So, the film has strong ideological message, something that well bred liberal is trying to avoid for decades. That's why liberal critics can't easily see the difference between communism and socialism and that's not just intellectual laziness, something more sinister is present (as one of the character in this film says, 'even socialism is classified'). So yes, oppresive communist regimes and liberal views on socialism have their 'places of truth' which doesn't allow the third party. During Soviet Union or any communist regime (which called themselves socialist but never really allowed demands for socialist alternative) and nowadays, liberal regimes which also prevent any substantial talk let alone possibility of socialist alternative, couldn't or can't understand this film. Which would be perfect if made during 1970s or 1980s and show that real alternative to what has become known as 'actually existing socialism' was socialist alternative proposed and demaned by majority of society in those states and regimes. They asked for more pluralism, whether politically, culturally and economically which means that demand for these was not the liberal one but the socialist one. Modern ideologem (mostly liberal or right) tends to bend that historical fact. Which was the real demands of societies in Eastern Europe hijacked, eventually, by conservative and liberal elites in late 1980s and early 1990s ... No wonder things still doesn't look good in Eastern Europe after those historical shenanigans... So, no more ranting about it. The film describes effort of some small Soviet town workers for better and more just economical reasoning. It's about the whole Soviet society shown on the example of one little town. So, everybody is caught in this. Unfortunately and obviously, the regime is the worst part of it since it has to give well explained answers to the people for their economic actions. Of course, the regime fails and responds with violence. Everobody is affected by it but we mostly see how a leading female party functionaire from this small town deals with it. She's a good choice because her life is connected to both side of social and politica divide in this society and that affects all of her decisions. And they are not without risks and temptations ... I won't mention anything else but only that acting and directing is great.
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10/10
The failures of central planning laid bare
duckduckpoose22 April 2021
As Milton Friedman says, any system that requires "the right man( or men)" to run the system is a flawed system. Communism or even socialism are systems that requires the "right people" to be in charge. When things fall apart due to mismanagement or single points of failure in central systems then society unravels and those in power will resort to violence/intimidation to maintain power and the status quo. Hierarchies are inevitable and any system that requires the few to make the decisions for the many is flawed and leads to authoritarianism. This movie highlights that dilemma and people coming to his realization too late. It is a beautiful and power tale.
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8/10
When becomes impossible not to see what you're not supposed to
wanderlazaro-219945 October 2021
The story happens in 1962, on a small Russian town during the cold war. The people of city seems to be getting angry and impatient with the central government due to wage cuts and general raise in prices. These changes cause tensions to build up rapidly between factory workers and the communist party members until explodes in a gruesome way.

The movie follows a member of the communist party called Lyudmila Danilovna (played by Yuliya Vysotskaya) that works for and represents the central government in the city. 'Lyuda' (for short) is an ideologue that believes on the party propaganda even thought she might express mild dissatisfaction privately from time to time. Her father, an ex party member, is a melancholic retired man that seems not to believe in the party lines anymore. Her daughter is a "full-of-life" Leninist factory worker, that believes that Stalin is an assassin dictator. The tension that sprouts from those different generations, personalities and occupations inside a highly unstable political regime leads the main character to restore and reinforce her personal relations(family, neighbors and friends) instead of the party propaganda.
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9/10
Just because China and the Soviet share so much similar history
nomoretyrant25 October 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Big censorship, big arrests, tight supplies, shooting at people. Only those who have lived in China and have a profound understanding of its modern history can appreciate the striking similarities between China and the Soviet Union. Especially when the mother of the child is nostalgic for Stalin's time, it fully demonstrates the profound influence of an ideology in which they missed a disguised history when people always had happiness and unity, distinguished friends and enemies but had no sense of the privileges of the powerful and the repression of opposites.

So the most ironic thing is that there are still many Chinese people today who have the mentality of being a mother in this play. Shameon soviet, shame on some of chinese.
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8/10
A gripping view of when a authoritarian government loses control.
richardevans-823996 February 2021
I kept thinking of our current times and how events such as happened in Novocherkaask could happen here. In the film a wildcat strike by workers is dismissed by local party officials until it gets out of hand when the workers take control of the factory. The regional government then steps in and is also ineffectual so the army and KGB are called in which eventually leads to a massacre. Poignantly told from the perspective of of loyal party official who receives assistance from a sympathetic KGB official in trying to find her missing daughter in the midst of a town under siege. Well worth watching from both a historical and from a gripping dramatic presentation.
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