Every world cinema fan should watch these movies from the Soviet Union.
Although the Soviet Union has no longer existed for decades now, some of the most prolific filmmakers came from the region that became known as the USSR. Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who is considered one of the best directors of all time, was one of the many creators who came out of the Soviet Union, creating some of the best movies still known today. Despite the strict censorship that came out of making art in the Soviet Union, as well as the larger policies that were in place at the time, directors and writers continued to innovate and push the boundaries of what cinema could look like.
Whether science fiction or a nod to cultural roots in Armenia, there is a diverse amount of subjects in Soviet movies, and they have gone vastly underappreciated outside the nods to Tarkovsky’s filmography. Many Soviet directors are studied today as influences to contemporary filmmakers, despite largely flying under the radar for international cinema fans. Poetic, yet cinematic at the same time, these films are works of art that all movie lovers should watch at least once during their lifetime. These are the best movies that came out of the Soviet Union.
12. Ballad of a Soldier
Released in 1959, Ballad of a Soldier is a film that reflects on the impacts of war and the psychological trauma that comes with it. Directed by Grigory Chukhray, the camera focuses on several characters who have come to deal with grief in different ways. In a countryside village, an older woman has lost her son in the tides of war, while the story rewinds to a 19-year-old who commits an act seemingly of bravery and only requests to see his mother after it. Getting home to his rural village is a feat in itself, but nothing will stop him from going home to see his mother one last time.
11. Dead Man’s Letters
Set after the effects of a nuclear war, Konstantin Lopushansky’s Dead Man’s Letters was his directorial debut; he is still active as a filmmaker as of 2023. The film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, landing positive reviews among critics globally despite the arduous process of getting around Soviet censorship to make the movie. Dead Man’s Letters takes place in an underground bunker after the events of a nuclear war, and a Nobel Prize in Physics laureate, who is the protagonist, writes letters in the bunker to his son, who he presumes is still alive somewhere.
10. Gentlemen of Fortune
Gentlemen of Fortune was director Aleksandr Sery’s most notable work of film, and he made the movie based on his experiences in prison. He had just been released from jail when he decided to make the movie. Set in 1979, in Central Asia, a group of criminals manages to steal a golden helmet that belonged to Alexander the Great from an archeological dig. Finding the criminals seems to be an easy task in the beginning, but when they are caught without the helmet, another man, who looks like one of the other men and is a kindergarten teacher, is recruited to try and find out where the helmet is.
9. The Cranes Are Flying
Mikhail Kalatozov, who was born in Georgia and became one of the more prominent Soviet directors, took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival for The Cranes Are Flying. It would be the only Soviet film to ever win the Palme d’Or in the country’s brief history. A young couple from Moscow in 1941 learns that the Germans are invading Russia, and the male, Boris, ends up volunteering for the army. Tragedy strikes as the air raids continue, leaving the woman an orphan, and the circumstances become even direr. The film focuses on the impacts of war on ordinary people living in affected zones, making it even more tragic.
8. Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears
Released in 1980, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears took home the Oscar for Best International Feature at the Academy Awards. The movie is split decades into two parts, and in the first arc of the movie, three young women have moved to Moscow to find work. From rural villages, they must adjust to life in the city and their relationships with men, relatives, and each other. Part two takes place 20 years after the events of Part One when their lives look drastically different from their days as youths.
7. Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession
Leonid Gaidai, a Soviet director who was well-known in the country for his humorous films, directed Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession in 1973. Set in the same year, an engineer works in his apartment to make a time machine. Somehow, it works, and he sends his landlord and a burglar to the era in which Ivan the Terrible was still alive. However, there’s a big twist here: Ivan was sent to the modern era. With all three individuals outside of their respective eras, they have to blend in and find a way to go back to their actual period.
6. Battleship Potemkin
Sergei Eisenstein, one of the most celebrated directors in Soviet history, came out with Battleship Potemkin in 1925. It would become one of his biggest movies and is now considered one of the greatest films made ever. The movie is split into five different acts and takes place in 1905 when the 1905 Russian Revolution took place. Aboard the ship Potemkin — which existed in real life — the sailors aboard the ship consider a mutiny against their leading officers. Their rebellion continues to escalate throughout the movie to all new levels, which serves as a metaphorical prelude to the Russian Revolution that led to the creation of the USSR.
Solaris, which was Andrei Tarkovsky’s third movie, is now said to be one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. A psychologist is sent to space and his mission is to board a space station overlooking the planet of Solaris and decide if it is worth continuing. Strange happenings previously occurred in that space station, and when he arrives, he discovers the scientists aboard the ship are suffering from delusions. Soon, he too begins to see things that he shouldn’t, like his wife who died over a decade ago.
4. Come and See
Elem Klimov’s Come and See can be classified as an anti-war movie and was adapted from a novel and memoir. The movie took almost a decade to be made, as Klimov was denied the opportunity to make the film by the Soviet censorship board. Now, it ranks on the Sight & Sound director’s list as the 42nd greatest film of all time. The year is 1943 and two boys from a village dig up rifles in the trenches and end up conscripted into the army. One of the boys, who ended up finding a rifle in the sand, leads the village to devastating consequences after he is spotted doing that.
3. The Color of Pomegranates
The Color of Pomegranates, which was made by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov, seeps with the history and culture of Armenia. Inspired by the motifs and style of Persian miniatures, every frame of The Color of Pomegranates operates as an interconnected piece of art, with every shot looking like it belongs in a museum. The movie tells the tale of the Armenian poet Sayat-Nova, who, in the 1700s, was a member of the royal court until his exile. Although the film originally incorporated Armenian language slides, they were changed into Russian to meet the censorship board’s standards.
Tarkovsky’s Stalker was released in 1979 and was loosely adapted from the novel Roadside Picnic. Its protagonist works as a Stalker, someone who brings people through an area known as the Zone. In the Zone, the laws of physics are not applicable, and it is rumored that in a certain room, wishes can be made and granted. The Stalker’s wife does not want him to keep going into this area, but he keeps bringing clients into the Zone, despite warning them of the danger. When two clients, the Writer and the Professor, hire him for his services, things are about to change.
Mirror is considered to be Tarkovsky’s best movie out of his brief filmography. Utilizing a nonlinear structure, it focuses on the life of one man throughout his lifetime. He is barely seen throughout the movie but is heard through a voiceover. Set in his childhood, adolescence, and age 40, it shows how drastically the circumstances changed during these periods. With new politics and agendas going on in the Soviet Union, the man, Alexei, experiences a lot of drastic differences in his quality of life when combined with personal struggles.
Source : Movie Web