Film Review: Dear Comrades!

Communism, like its Marxist foundation, is one of those political ideologies which sounds great in theory but in practice always seems to be twisted to suit whoever is in power. During the Cold War, the word was wielded by many to symbolise some kind of utopian alternative to capitalism, where everyone is equal and works for a common good. The behemoth of the USSR was responsible for many massacres and outrages, covered up by strict censorship and the strong arm of the Communist Party. Dear Comrades! tells one such story.

Lyuda Syomina (Yuliya Vysotskaya) is a loyal party member who sits on the city committee in Novocherkassk. During a strike at the local Electric Locomotive Plant, orders are given to open fire on demonstrators. Whilst the city is placed under curfew, her spirited teenage daughter Svetka (Yuliya Burova), who was one of the protestors, disappears. As witnesses are rounded up by the regime, she enlists the help of a KGB agent (Andrey Gusev) to find her before the authorities do.

Dear Comrades! exposes one of many shameful chapters in the history of the Soviet Union. In an almost Kafkaesque tangle, Vysotskaya is the driving force. Her performance propels events forwards, Lyuda refusing to give up her desperate search no matter what. Filmed in black and white, Andrey Konchalovskiy conjures up the claustrophobia, discontent and paranoia of the era. Whilst Dear Comrades! doesn’t always work as sheer entertainment, it’s a cleverly concocted mix of historical document and family drama.

Dear Comrades! is out in cinemas and on demand from 15 January.

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