Svolochi (Bastards) (2006)
Director: Aleksandr Atanesyan.
Starring: Andrey Panin (Col. Anton Vishnevetsky), Andrey Krasko (Uncle Pasha), Aleksandr Golovin (Kot), Sergei Rychenkov (Tyapa), Vladimir Andreev (Konstantin Chernov), Rostislav Bershauer (Doctor), A. Bobrov (Instructor), Oleg Buganov (Prince), Kirill Emelyanov (Studer), Mitya Gorevoy (Cherep), Vladimir Kashpur (Old Tyapa), Igor Kortaev (Okun'), Vasili Lykshin (Lavrik), A. Nikulin (Instructor), Aleksandr Nikulin (Deputy Political officer).
criminal youths recruited to form five groups of saboteurs behind the enemy lines
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"By the beginning of 1943, the number of homeless children in areas of evacuation has reached more than 670,000 people, the majority of whom are vagrants, beggars or thieves. The most daring join gangs and commit heinous crimes: robbery, larceny of socialist property, murder and others. From a Central Executive committee report to Comrade Stalin.
"By decree: For the perpetration of especially heinous crimes, children will be tried as adults to the fullest extent of the law, incompliance with the statutes of the USSR."
There is an exception for the young criminals. It was decided to ease the fate of these criminals. The idea is that the young perpetrator could atone for their crimes before the Motherland."
They have found a candidate to undergo rehabilitation. He is a lieutenant colonel, single, wife and son died of typhus. His name is Anton Vishnevetsky. He is to "atone himself though blood".
Anton is to head a "school" for rehabilitation of youths who have received the death penalty. He can pick his own staff, even from the front lines or from prison.
At night a gang of youths are out looking to commit crimes. A fellow named Cot is send up on the roof of a targeted building. The other go inside. They run across a sleeping guard. They stab the old man guarding the place.
The gang finds boxes of tinned stew. The leader tells the guys to grab the boxes of condensed milk. The "picker" specifically asked for the condensed milk. They have a cart outside pulled by a donkey.
The police pull jup in a truck. One of the gang members shouts to the others that Cot and Lavrik are still in the warehouse. But the others are just interested in getting away from the cops.
The cops get the front door open and go in to catch the boys there. A boy throws the equivalent to a knife into a police officer, but before the knife lands into the officer's chest he fires a shot that hits the boy. The police officer drops the pistol and another young fellow picks it up and shoots a man with the police.
The boy runs to see if his friend is stillalive and a policeman puts a gun to his head saying: "Don't move, bastard!"
A soldier comes in the speak with comrade lieutenant-colonel. He asks if they have a road block down below? Anton says yes and that indeed every approach to the school is guarded.
Anton speaks with his staff. He wants everyone to have a nickname and everyone will use the nicknames. He adds that the staff will be dealing with repeat offenders. In other words, they will be dealing with criminals. He warns the men not to expect the young criminals to show any fear or any respect toward them. Anton mentions that the staff is not to turn their backs to the criminals.
The staff stsarts looking for youths without families and they must be 15 years old or over. A guard at the juvenile facility tells the two staff members that he has chosen only two candidates: Chernov, Konstantin Arkadievich (armed robbery, theft and a participant in the murders of police officers; and 14 year old Tiapkin, Valentin Petrovich (member of a gang and murder of a police officer).
Chernov is the first to be interviewed. The question is: "Do you want to atone for your wrongdoings before the Motherland?" Chernov only has a choice between death row or a special school. Chernov wants to know about the school.
Anton tells his staff that their job is to prepared five sabotage groups within five months. These groups will be capable of completing any task given to them. Fifty young people are coming here.
In the jail cell, two large fellows are taking over the cell. They start to pick on Tiapkin, but when Chernov comes in he puts a knife to one of the big guys' throat. Chernov tells the boys to beat the two newcomers and they gladly comply.
An armed group of guards open and rush into the cell. Everyone jumps on the bunks, except for the two biggest fellows laying on the floor with their throats slit.
A group of selected youths are being transported by a prison truck to the school. One of the guys mouths off to a guard. The guard opens the cell door, goes over to the fellow and hits him as hard as he can in the mid-section. Tiapking asks Chernov what have they gotten themselves into? Chernov tells him not to get into any trouble because they are going to escape from this school.
The school is on top of a mountain. But it's not quiet there as the boys are literally fighting each other with their fists. The head of the school Anton breaks the fight off by shooting his automatic weapon up into the air. He says he thought they were sending him 50 brave youths, but all he sees is 50 half-brained, worthless idiots. He can't believe that a fight was started over a tub of hot water. Some kid sasses Anton asking what is he going to do, expel them? Anton say next time they will take the instigators down the hill and shoot them.
The kid says that they are minors and they can't be killed. Anton says they can shoot them.
A ski instructor thinks that things are getting out of hand, so he starts to pull his pistol. Somebody puts a ski pole up to the instructor's throat and tells him not to touch the gun. Another fellow takes the pistol from the instructor. The kid takes the clip out of the weapon, throws the clip away and gives the pistol back to the instructor. The boys then tell the instructor not to take it so hard. "Just tell us what we do wrong." They also say that the broken skis were not broken deliberately. After some thought the instructor agrees to relax and teach them how to ski. Then the guys take off downhill without waiting for the instructor.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 minutes into the film. I'll stop here. This is not a true story at all. The Soviets never trained a group of youths to be saboteurs behind enemy lines. At first the film was promoted as a true story, so it got a lot of attention. Only afterward, did the public learn that the film is a matter of fiction.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
P.S. I may yet take this film off the list completely.
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