From what I can understand, the only Soviet movie people in the West have ever heard of is The Battleship Potemkin! In fact the Soviet Union produced some terrific films and these are three that made an impression on me when I was growing up in Moscow.
“Seventeen Moments of Spring”
Seventeen Moments of Spring was a TV series (there were twelve episodes) first screened in 1973. A real must-see TV event that had everyone in my family (and the rest of the USSR) glued to the screen.
It told the story of a KGB agent – a sort of Russian James Bond – named Maxim Issaev (played by the gorgeous Vladislav Tikhonov) who was operating as a double-agent. He’s given the mission to disrupt the negotiations between those sneaky Americans and those terrible Germans in 1945, the Americans and the Germans plotting to make peace and then turn on the oh-so-heroic and noble USSR. Apparently watching this is what persuaded Putin to join the KGB!
Also everybody knows the song from these series: “I beg you, my sadness, please leave me, if only for a very short while; like a little grey cloud, please fly to my home, from here to my home…”
The Dawns Here Are Quiet
A tear-jerker of a movie. Boy, did I cry! Set in 1942 it follows the adventures of a group of five young girls in the Red Army being trained as anti-aircraft gunners who suddenly find themselves having to fight the advancing Germans. They all die heroically, of course. I particularly identified with the character of Zhenya Komelkova (played by Olga Ostroumova) who was a real rascal (Zhenya’s fourth from the right in the photo).
A great, great movie. No wonder it was nominated for an Academy Award – but I have only just discovered this writing this blog post. Just shows how much information we had in the USSR about the outside world.
The Arrows of Robin Hood
I must have a thing for blokes with beards. I just adored Boris Khmelnitsky when he played Robin Hood in The Arrows of Robin Hood, a 1975 film directed by Sergei Tarassov. I so wanted to be Maid Marian (played to good effect in the film by Regina Razuma). This was how my love for English started: the following day I went to my school library and got a book on Robin Hood. There was some confusion, as the name “Hood” had been translated into Russian as “Good” and I ended up having a long debate with my History teacher about whether good old Robin was real or fiction. The teacher won. For now (he-he-he!).
One interesting thing was that I bought the film on video back in 2003 and it was different. When it was originally made its soundtrack featured songs by Raimonds Pauls (who became a huge star in the 1980s) but Goskino (the State organisation overseeing cinema in the USSR) didn’t like them (or had a falling out with the director or some other silly reason) and these were replaced by numbers by Vladimir Vysotsky. They were good, but they were not the ones I was looking for!