I knew I had seen that guy who plays the NKVD chief before. He appeared tonight while I was watching Part 4 of Master i Margarita. The NKVD is finally involved — trying to figure out this Professor Woland character (who is Satan) — Who is he, really, and how did he get to Moscow? The NKVD guy gives orders to arrest anyone on the slightest suspicion.
Finally I remembered. It’s the same person who played Lavrentiy Beria in “Balthazar’s Feasts, or Night with Stalin.” Well, I guess he has found a role. His name is Valentin Gaft.
I have mentioned before how movies from the Soviet era always portray the police as virtuous and almost omniscient. It’s difficult to have much of a plot when one party already knows everything and can do no wrong. How do you make a movie under those conditions? Answer: You do slapstick where an innocent person has to get involved with the crooks as an informer in order to obtain the final unknown detail — as in Brilliantovaya Ruka (Diamond Arm) or Gentlemen of Fortune. There can be some entertainment value in that — I understand that those two movies were very popular in Russia.
Master i Margarita is of course a post-Soviet movie. And in this one, the almost-omniscient characters are Satan and their sidekick, who know how to use their knowledge to destroy people.
Omniscience in the wrong hands is not a good thing.