Saturday, November 27, 2010


So what do you do when it's late November and an actual cold snap hits LA and everyone is shivering and hiding in their houses? You bust out Sergie Bondarchuk's 6-hour Soviet era film adaptation of WAR AND PEACE. Winner of the Academy Award for foreign film in 1968.

It's amazing! And beautiful and so shockingly sophisticated and well made and worthy of it's source, you have that thing of "WTF? Someone made a classic film in the Soviet Union?" It's their GONE WITH THE WIND. And just as good.

This sent me back to my own ideas of what exactly the Soviet Union was. Who were these horrible Communists that put artists and other free thinkers into prisons? Was it possible that some of those Party Members were artists themselves? All the "Communists" really were was a class of people who were smart enough or rich enough to weasel their way into "The Party" and who then got to live like all the other elite classes throughout Russian History.

I remember meeting an East German couple, in their early twenties, in Greece a few months after the Berlin Wall had fallen. They were good looking, they had plenty of money, they were having a great time. I couldn't figure them out. They were East Germans? Weren't they terribly oppressed? Weren't they broke? Wasn't their currency worthless in the west?

No. Because they were probably Communists. Or the sons and daughters of. I was uncouth enough to ask them point blank: "Were you Communists?" They got this horrified look on their faces and said, "No, no, not Communists!"

But they could have been. Somebody was. And that would explain their lifestyle.

So who was this guy Sergie Bondarchuk who made this amazing movie? Was he an oppressed artist, or maybe he was himself a member of the party?

It just shows how all the propaganda we absorbed during the 70s and 80s warped our minds to the point we can't picture accurately how the Soviet Union actually functioned. We just think "evil" and dismiss the whole thing.


  1. Bondarchuk was not a member of the party until very late in his career, and only joined to be able to continue his film career. He's buried in the same cemetary as Chekhov and Bulgakov. He made many films; I've only seen a couple in addition to War & Peace, which as you say is a complete masterwork. Destiny of a Man is excellent as well.

  2. My next YA is going to touch on this subject! It's set in Leningrad in 1982. I'm glad to see you thinking about this because I'm hoping for a little push from the zeitgeist. Funny how what seemed so grubby and blech at the time can take on a kind of glamour when it's gone.

    x natalie

    p.s. "How the Soviet Union actually functioned" is not an easy thing to wrap your mind around, with or without propaganda.