Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hearts and Minds (Mikhalkov's Anna and Children of the Arbat)

For all I read of the history and psychology behind the growth of Stalin's Russia in Children of the Arbat, that state was created one soul at a time.
At first, Nina used to say that Sasha's arrest had been an absurd accident, but then new nuances began to creep into her conversation: there was the difficult internal and international situation, the sharpening of the class struggle, the activities of anti-Party groupings, and as never before particular precision and clarity of one's position was required, whereas unfortunately Sasha sometimes put his own understanding of events above the point of view of the collective. In a word, she hinted that Sasha's arrest had some foundation.

The change has to happen in the minds and hearts of the people who make up the State. This reminded me of one of the most amazing films I've ever seen, Anna, by Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov. Mikhalkov is a great Russian actor and director - his film Burnt by the Sun, was an international success and deservedly so - a gorgeous film. But Anna is really something extraordinary, it documents his daughter Anna's life from ages 6 to 18 alongside Russian history in the same years (late 70s - through early 90s). In it he asks her the same few questions each year, basic questions: "What do you love?" "What do you fear?" And through that we watch the world change. What is more amazing still about this film is that when Mikhalkov began making it, the Soviet government controlled the use of all film, keeping strict record, day after day, of the number of meters of used so that no unauthorized film could be shot. Mikhalkov and his collaborator Sergei Miroshnichenko had surreptitiously collected film bits over the years and used these little saved up scraps to shoot the film. He only worked with one other person on the film so as not to endanger anyone in the making of the film.

Other posts on Children of the Arbat 1, 2, 3.

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