June 22 is the official mourning day in Russia whose communist regime got deserved trouncing in 1941.
With the return of KGB mafia dictatorship, neo-soviet hysteria of russians, highly appreciated in any kind even without it, has achieved a completely new level. As the day of whacked bolshevism is approaching, all kinds of lackeys demonstrate 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 Putin’s “biker” bitches, if you can imagine it).
But there was something uncommon in this June 22 that got my attention – an uproar that was hard to miss for anyone tracking the situation in Russia. The cause of hullabaloo was newly released movie about WW2 in USSR named “I serve to Soviet Union!” (“Служу советскому Союзу!”) based on the novel by L. Menaker “A Dinner With Devil” and directed by L.Ustyugov. From my personal experience, I know for sure: if russians are mad at something, it may be worthy to see for a civilized man. So I got intrigued.
Trying to get a free copy of this movie (yeah, for a preview :) ), I managed to find only Ukrainian TV rips (with subtitles). Looks like Ukraine still has a bit more freedom than Russia, despite it’s being ruled by pro-russian thugs – the movie was released there first, in February of this year, while in Russia its release happened at June 22. Then russian ministry of culture was attacked by enraged ruskies who sent emails with requirements to forbid TV release of the film and, literally, “punish those who permitted it”.
After seeing the whole picture by myself, I can tell my opinion but the plot should be introduced first.
A story begins in one of numerous gulag camps somewhere near the Northwest USSR border. Protagonist, a volunteer of Spanish Civil War and writer Mikhail Dontsov ended up there because of mistyped newspaper heading “Sralin” instead of “Stalin” (closest translation of this wordplay would be “Shitalin”). Lover of Dontsov, actress Taisiya Meshcherskaya, tries to refuse Lavrentiy Beria’s attempts to have a way with her and gets her own prison term for that, being sent together with other “guilty” representatives of “culture intelligentsia” to perform in Gulags. By strange coincidence she arrives in the same camp where her man is being held. So there will be a lot of love story, but for me it doesn’t seem to be a primary idea of the plot.
Scenes of last free days are flashing in protagonists’ memories during short working breaks and gulag train ride. NKVD guards exercise all their brutality on inmates, fiercely concealing any knowledge about outer world. Dontsov and his friends manage to get the news about ongoing war from pieces of old newspaper which they used to make cigarettes.
Then political inmates get involved in tough confrontation with felons, who were trying to steal work results (lumber) from them. After some fights, mutual threats and so on conflict ends up in a stalemate, with Dontsov and aged mafia boss nicknamed Odessa as factions’ leaders.
NKVD commander Milovanov provokes Dontsov on a fight, beats him up and sends him to punishment cell. Then Milovanov tries to seduce and rape Meshcherskaya but changes his mind quickly after being told that no means no. In a hard way.
It did not take a long time for the Wehrmacht to seize territories which soviets considered safe and far from the frontline. Approaching large group of German soldiers about to disembark right near the camp was indeed a big surprise for NKVD. Which, in traditions of russian bravery, ran away in crapped pants, leaving behind stockpiles of weapons, secret documents and camp guarded by no one but locked dogs and few “forgotten” soldiers.
Severance between political prisoners and criminals becomes even greater when they start to decide what to do after suddenly waking up in absolute freedom.
Political inmates are demonstrating fanatical ardor to fight for the very Soviet regime that has been abusing them, while criminals are mostly interested in continuation of their habitual activities in war-torn land. However, using his reputation, Odessa manages to call many of thugs to the side of political prisoners which he joined. The rogue felons try to start rampage, but got scared off by self-promoted guards who got their hands on weapon stock first. Temporary military administration is created from both of factions, represented by Odessa and Dontsov.
Using loudspeakers, Germans tell prisoners to remain in camp and wait for the troops to move in, promising “ostarbeiter” careers. Also they threaten that for escapes of each inmate, ten others will be shot. One of rogue criminals, Khabal (“loudmouth”) kills a sentry and tries to join Germans, having plans to continue his “businesses” behind frontline. But Khabal’s plans were too optimistic – he was hunted down by Odessa with his new comrades from lower-rank camp guards.
Reaching some kind of agreement, newly-elected camp leaders decide to trick Germans and make a surprise attack. The plan works, and with captured weapons inmates enter a second battle against larger remaining German forces. Meanwhile rogue criminals are trying to plunder “intelligentsia” barrack and rape women, but scared off again by Meshcherskaya to whom Dontsov providently gave a Nagant revolver.
After their victory upon Germans, thinned inmate group returns to camp to celebrate and call the mainland for support.
In the key scene, Dontsov comes to portrait of dictator Stalin on 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 working people!” in a manner far beyond formal rules.
Glorious self-proclaimed army drinks and carouses, mixing elements of lowlife and high cultures in mawkish, overly picturesque celebration without any thoughts about future. It’s not surprising that next day, a heavy hangover was a lesser of their troubles. Gulag has returned to their premises, together with NKVD guards even worse than ones before. Still confident that justice exists in USSR, “heroes” surrender without any resistance.
After witnessing arrests, Meshcherskaya calls to Beria (easy just like using a cell phone!) begging for mercy for Dontsov. Beria asks to pass phone to returned camp commander Malivanov and gives him some obscure order (which is revealed a bit later). Malivanov takes the actress away from the camp in a boat speaking about transfer to Murmansk.
Short interrogation, where Dontsov manages to pass captured German documents to NKVD commander, ends with mass shooting of all prisoners and orders to burn down the entire camp to pass it for “Nazi atrocities”. Malivanov, who just returned after killing Mesherskaya by Beria’s order, is assigned as fake war hero that “lost his vigilance” allowing Germans to capture and destroy the camp but “was a hero later”.
Movie ends with a scene from the final days of WW2. One of Soviet officers, which is aged and war-beaten Malivanov, finishes telling the entire story to his fellow “comrade”.
For the modern russian cinema this picture has quite acceptable quality, with satisfactory timing/action ratio (if you saw any new russian war films where they’ve been trying to spend as much of reels as possible while acing as little as possible, using someone’s dacha as the stage, you’ll get it), and realistic reproduction of overall image of 1940s USSR – at least they managed to get some genuine stuff. However, it is still plagued by incongruities, technically many of situations would have been just impossible in life (like calling to Kremlin from war zone, or Germans connecting the camp guards via ready, pre-tuned radio). And stereotypically cartoonish depiction of Germans with mandatory “Achtung-Heil Hitler-Scheiße” stuff has been used by everyone so frequently that it’s even not funny anymore. Good and bad Soviets got a load of their stereotypes as well, mostly mawkish ones from pioneer’s fairytales. Those who are familiar in Soviet history can find many more drawbacks, but no matter of that a single thing has been represented absolutely authentically and naturally. The very thing that made ruskies so mad.
The relationship between ruskies and their Soviet regime.
It is a kind of ironic to see that the more russians are getting angered with the movie, the more resemblance they have with their fictional predecessors shown on the screen. No matter how russian serfs are being abused and humiliated by their commie masters, they are always eager to protect their GULAG against any foreign attempts to overthrow it. Even being mixed down with GULAG dirt and deprived of all human dignity (if they ever had one), russian subhumans continue to praise their thuggish dictators, caste society and cattle existence, always ready to throw themselves in packs right on enemy machineguns or under tanks. Or survive the war and be butchered by their leader’s NKVD henchmen as a reward. Well, like country, like rewards. And I think that congenital serfs who fight for their own serfdom deserve nothing better. The only problem here is their ability (and desire) to turn the entire world into one big GULAG.