On June 2nd, 1962, a group of unarmed protesters were fatally shot to death in the Russian city of Novocherkassk. The event resulted in a shattering wave of arrests and forced brutality against the innocent civilians of the town, who were relentlessly harassed and beaten in order to keep quiet on the subject. Years later, we often tend to forget these tragic and evil events, where history seemingly becomes more redundant with each passing day. But art can help us remember. Primarily, the importance of cinema is not to just merely reenact a tragedy, but more so to educate audiences on the internal psychological effects of war and violence. Andrei Konchalovsky’s Dear Comrades! is a brutal watch, but an essential viewing for any viewer who is not familiar with the internal motherland civilian ties and the Russian Cold War hysteria of the 1960’s.
Dear Comrades! is literally divided into three unique acts over the span of three days. From June 1st to June 3rd, we witness the anatomy of tragedy — how a simple peaceful protest resulted in needless bloodshed and the internal psychological development of the film’s lead heroine. While the central point of view of the protagonist does seem counter-productive in the film’s opening thirty minutes, the film does eventually shift gears.
Could have Konchalovsky introduced more details in regards to the protagonist’s daughter and her political views? Definitely, although what is attempted and stated in the film in regards to the ethical demands of the general population, Dear Comrades! is an effective piece of historical fiction. History is always bound to repeat itself if we don’t acknowledge our previous wrongdoings, and cinema can be the most effective gateway to the truth.
Dear Comrades! is now available to stream at this year’s 56th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the International Competition program.