Tonight I finished the first watching of Pokayanie.
If I hadn’t been told that this film was produced in 1984, I would have guessed it was a production from the mid 1990s or so. It’s that prophetic.
Most of the way through, while being surprised that such a film had been produced at all, I kept telling myself that it certainly wasn’t subtle. Yes, the guards are dressed in medieval armor, the jurors and lawyers have medieval clothing, and there are other surreal elements to keep this from being any kind of docudrama. But it was pretty obvious what piece of Russian history was being represented here. In fact, the above scene sounded just like something I had read in Robert Conquest’s, “The Great Terror.” The character has confessed to being a spy and to being in charge of building a tunnel from London to Bombay. He thought that if the prisoners made their confessions even more ridiculous and outlandish than they were being tortured and manipulated to make them, that it would somehow bring it all to an end. (It didn’t work.)
Then, the last scenes in the movie started to reveal that maybe it’s more subtle than I had thought. And the final scene went a step further and made it all more complicated. And instead of my viewing it as an outsider — after all I’m not Russian — all of a sudden it seemed I was drawn in to be part of that story, too, even though I’d rather not be.
I’m not sure everyone would have the same reaction.
The end of that movie upset a lot of things. I’m still not sure where they all landed. I need to think about it more before I try to explain.