June 22 is the official mourning day in Russia whose communist power got deserved overwhelming blow in 1941.
With the return of KGB dictator neo-soviet hysteria of russians highly appreciated in any kind achieved a new level. As the day of whacked bolshevism approached, lackeys of dictator had shown their loyalty with multiple ways, of course russian “night wolves whelps” were amongst first ones, participating is pseudo-Orthodox, neo-communist show with candles. (I am speaking about delivery of lit candle from church to soviet museum by bikers).
But there was something uncommon in this June 22 that got my attention – an uproar which was hard to miss. The subject of this revolt was newly released movie about WW2 in USSR, named “I serve to soviet Union!” (“Служу советскому Союзу!”) based on the novel of L.Menaker “A Dinner With Devil” and directed by L.Ustyugov. Cause from my experience I know: if russians are cursing at some material, it may be interesting for a civilized man, I got intrigued.
I tried to search for this movie to watch it but succeeded to found only TV rip versions of it, moreover, all they were of Ukrainian release (with subtitles). It looks like despite Ukraine is ruled now by pro-russian neo-soviet power it still has a bit more freedom – movie was released firstly there, in February of this year, while in Russia it barely had release at June 22, and russian ministry of culture was literally attacked by enraged horde who sent emails with requirements to forbid TV release of the film and punish those who permitted it.
After seeing the whole movie by myself, I can tell my opinion but story should be introduced first.
Action begins in one of numerous gulag camps somewhere near the Northwest USSR border. Protagonist, writer Mikhail Dontsov ended up there because of mistyped newspaper heading “Sralin” instead of “Stalin” (closest translation of this wordplay would be “Sh#talin”). Lover of Dontsov, actress Taisiya Meshcherskaya, tried to refuse Beria’s attempts to claim her body and was sent for this together with other “guilty” representatives of “culture intelligentsia” to perform in Gulags, by concidence she arrives in the same camp her man is already into. So that will be a love story in action, but obviously it is not main idea of the film and one can pay it not a lot of attention.
Scenes of last free days are flashing in protagonists’ memories during short working break and gulag train ride. Security personnel enjoys to use all available brutality to conceal from prisoners any knowledge about outer world as well as slightest wish to get it. Prisoners get the news about ongoing war from pieces of old newspaper which is used for making cigarettes.
Political prisoners have tough confrontation with criminals who were trying to steal work results from them. After huge fight, several dead and so on conflict ends up with friendship of criminal boss nicknamed „Odessa“ and Dontsov.
Commander of camp security Milovanov provokes Dontsov on a fight, beats him up and sends him to punishment cell. Then NKVD brute tries to seduce and rape Meshcherskaya but loses his intentions quickly, after being taught physical “lesson”.
It did not take a long time for Wehrmacht to seize territories which soviets considered safe and far from frontline. Gulag securities were carelessly wandering around while they spotted large group of German soldiers about to disembark right towards the camp. Of course there was no surprise that all NKVD ran away as fast as they could, leaving behind stock of weapons, secret documents and camp guarded by no one but locked shepherds and few “forgotten” soldiers. “Intelligentsia” locked themselves in their barrack to avoid rampage of uncontrolled outlaws’ horde.
Severance between political prisoners and criminals became even greater when they started trying to decide what to do after waking up in freedom. Temporary “administration” created from both of groups. Political prisoners show fanatical ardor to fight for soviet power (sic!), while criminals are mostly intended to desert, but “Odessa” manages to call minor part of the gang to the side of political prisoners which he joined to. Other part tries to start rampage, but got scared off by self-promoted guards who captured weapon stock.
Germans offer prisoners to leave in camp and surrender for becoming “ostarbeiters” warning that otherwise there will be severe punishment for every escape. One of criminals kills a sentry and tries to join Germans having plans to continue criminal career behind frontline, but got chased and killed by “Odessa” with his new “comrades”.
Using far not honest tricks and skills, russians succeed to destroy German troops and capture secret Wehrmacht orders. Meanwhile criminals who refused to participate in the battle are trying to rape women, but scared off again by Meshcherskaya to whom Dontsov providently gave a Nagant.
After victory, thinned group returns to camp to celebrate it and call for support.
The key moment of a movie is scene of phone (I wonder how destroyed lines were repaired in chaos and worked so well?!) conversation of Dontsov with NKVD commander. Protagonist comes to nearly fallen portrait of dictator Stalin at the wall, carefully fixes its position and then makes a call to commander office. After explaining the situation, he ends conversation with words “I serve to soviet Union!”, which are far beyond formal reply for him.
“Glorious” self-proclaimed army drinks up and carouses without any thoughts about future. It is not surprising that next day they find themselves not only in heavy hangover but also in the resurrected gulag guarded by returned NKVD brutes even worse than ones ran away, which “heroes” surrendered to without any resistance.
After seeing arrests, Meshcherskaya calls to Beria (easy just like using a cell phone again!) and begs for mercy for Dontsov. Beria asks for returned camp commander and gives some unknown orders which are revealed a bit later. Malivanov takes the actress away from the camp speaking about Murmansk destination.
Short but enough for demonstrating their nature again (for those who still not understood it) conversation with prisoners and accepting of German documents ends with orders to execute all prisoners and burn down the camp as evidence. Malivanov who just returned from execution of Mesherskaya he had done, gets order to pretend a fake destroyer of Germans, as he “lost attention” but “was a hero later”.
Movie ends with conversation between two russian officers, one of which is Malivanov who told the story to his fellow “comrade”, somewhere in the frontline.
Speaking of technical details, there were of course multiple mistakes and evident reality mismatches, but for modern russian cinema this movie can be considered of relatively acceptable quality, with reasonable timing/action ratio, average details and accurate reproduction of relations in 1940s USSR.
Personalities of all characters are shown quite realistic (proud actress, cowardly but brutal NKVD, treacherous Jewish supervisor of troupe, stupid mongol guard, criminals with absolutely no morality, masochistic “intelligentsia” who gets constantly being whacked by nation which they are trying to “save”… And last but far not least – russian slaves headed by protagonist who were fighting with Germans with tooth and nail but surrendered to NKVD, giving to shot themselves without slightest attempts to resist, being sure in justice of subhuman power even meeting bullets of brutes whose asses they saved just before.
There was nothing unusual or new for me in this film, but after viewing it I knew what certainly made russians mad.
Plenty of drawbacks could have been found in the movie, but one thing remains certainly true and represented “as is”. The essence of russian majority with its relation to soviet power, either because of “idea” or so-called “small homeland patriotism”. Personality of predatory slave who gets enraged with a slightest chance to get freedom, but praises noose tied around his neck by dictators. Always whacked, drained, robbed slaves, who are grateful for all this.
It is a kind of irony that the more russians getting angered with the movie, the more of resemblance they have with their predecessors shown in the cinema. There is a little difference between the same nation 60 years ago and now. Whatever treatment russian untermenschen get from their power, even being humiliated to the endpoint and mixed up with dirt, they continue glorifying their subhuman dictators, caste society and cattle existence, always ready to throw themselves in packs right on enemy machineguns or being shot by their own security police, always dying for their slavery, but never for freedom.