|6:00 p.m.||My Friend Ivan Lapshin|
Alexei Guerman (U.S.S.R., 1984)
Few films have merged realism and nightmare as easily as Guerman’s hypnotic treatise on life in Russia during the 1930s, painstakingly researched and re-created to achieve a near-documentary portrait of the era, yet technically so masterful and spellbinding it could be science fiction. In a crowded communal flat there live several friends, families, and strangers, chief among them the police inspector Lapshin, whose adventures with criminals, theater performers, and peasants allow the film—and its viewers—to discover a world, and a people, still optimistic about Communism, yet poised to be devoured by Stalinism. Dizzyingly crammed full of life, movement, and a constant barrage of voices and music, the film is also pervaded by a foreboding as wide as the winter’s snow, for its characters—whether as intellectuals, Jews, criminals, or other “undesirables”—will soon be on the wrong end of Stalin’s purges. “We wanted to show life and some of the things that brought people to death later,” notes Guerman. “This is a film presentiment; it shows the people who will die.” Simultaneously hopeful and mournful, realist and fabulist, as anchored in tragedy as Shoah yet as drunk with cinema’s potential as Citizen Kane, Lapshin was named the best Soviet film of all time in a poll of Russian critics.
• Written by Eduard Volodarsky, based on stories by Yuri Guerman. Photographed by Valery Fedosov. With Andrei Boltnev, Nina Ruslanova, Andrei Mironov. (100 mins, In Russian with English subtitles, B&W/Color, 35mm)