(Burnt by the Sun) (1994)
Director: Nikita Mikhalkov.
Starring: Oleg Menshikov (Dimitri/Mitya), Nikita Mikhalkov (Col. Sergei Petrovich Kotov), Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Marusia), Nadezhda Mikhalkova (Nadya), André Oumansky (Philippe), Vyacheslav Tikhonov (Vsevolod), Svetlana Kryuchkova (Mokhova), Vladimir Ilyin (Kirik), Alla A. Kazanskaya (Lidiya Stepanovna), Nina Arkhipova (Yelena Mikhajlovna), Avangard Leontyev (Chauffeur), Inna Ulyanova (Olga Nikolayevna), Lyubov Rudneva (Lyuba), Vladimir Ryabov (NKVD officer), Vladimir Belousov (NKVD man #1).
the paranoid era of the evil Stalin
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
1936. Soviet Union. Mitya comes in from a night on the town at 6 a.m. He puts a round in his revolver and spins the cylinder. Playing Russian Roulette, he puts the pistol to his and and pulls the trigger. Click.
The scene switches to the countryside. Tanks are lining up along the border of a large wheat field. The peasants are angry because the tanks plan to drive right across their wheat field. A man rides his horse to fetch Colonel Kotov (a.k.a., Sergei Petrovich) to put a stop to the tanks. The Colonel rides to the tanks on horseback. The Colonel is a Soviet war hero and so he is able to use this to put the necessary calls in to get the orders changed and to save the wheat fields.
Kotov returns home. There we meet the various members of the Colonel's family. Not far the the house soldiers are preparing for the 6th anniversary of the air balloons built for Stalin. Nadyna the Colonel's little daughter, watches as a pioneer regiment passes by. With them there is a strange looking man who stops to talk with Nadya. Apparently, this strange man knows the family because he knows who Nadya is. She asks him if he is the Summer Santa and he says he is. The Summer Santa turns out to be Mitya.
Mitya and Nadya head to the house and Mitya sees Marussya, wife of the Colonel. They know each other. Marussya then introduces Mitya to her husband and the men know of each other. In fact, everyone in the family knows Mitya. He left the area back in 1928.
They go for a swim. We see that there is a very close relationship between father and daughter as the Colonel takes Nadya for a boat ride. Nadya tells her father: "I adore you." Mitya says that he is married and has three children. When Dad and daughter return to the beach area, almost everyone is gone. (They were actually chased away by the local Civil Defense who used many of the bathers in a practice run for emergency medical treatment for the wounded.) The Colonel is worried about a possible relationship with Mitya and Marussya and he rushes back to the house to check on them. Nothing happened.
At home Mitya tells Nadya a fairytale that is actually based on his departure from the local area. It appears that Mitya had suddenly left the area without saying good-bye and has been trying to get back home ever since. Marussya is upset by the story and runs upstairs closely followed by her husband. Marussya threatens to throw herself off the upper porch if he comes closer, but he is able to calm her down and the couple have sex.
Mitya admits that he lied. He is not married and does not have any children. A member of the family, Kirik, asks him why he had just vanished from the area. Mitya says he performed in a restaurant near Paris. He also said he was in counter-espionage, but Kirik laughs it off. He says that Marussya had waited for his return for an entire year and that she had slit her wrists in an attempt at suicide. When Marussya comes down she tells Mitya that he must go. Mitya says he is leaving this very day.
But apparently the Colonel is going to go with Mitya. Later we learn more about this when the two men are alone together. The Colonel says that he knows that since 1923 Mitya has worked in counter-espionage and he had fingered eight generals from the White Army, who were later executed. The Colonel adds: "And you were on their side." Mitya says he was forced to do these things. During the discussion, we learn that Mitya is here to arrest Kotov. In anger, Mitya tells him that he will soon be confessing that since 1920 he's been spying for the Germans and since 1923 for the Japanese and that he had wanted to murder Stalin.
The car arrives and the Colonel drives away with three men and Mitya. They let Nadya drive with them up to the bend, but then let her out. Their way is blocked by a truck driver who has been searching all day for a certain town that is not even in the area. He rushes to the car to complain to the men of his problems. He calms down when he recognizes war hero Kotov. As Mitya walks the man back to his truck, the Colonel tries to make a break for it and he is beaten by the three men in the car. This frightens the truck driver who now fears for his life. He has seen too much. Indeed, he has. The three men shoot and kill the truck driver. Mitya then commits suicide by cutting his wrists while in a bathtub filled with water.
Kotov, Sergei Petrovich. The Colonel was shot August 12, 1936. In 1956 he was rehabilitated posthumously three years after Stalin's death.
Kotova, Maria Borissovna. Sentenced to ten years deprivation, she died in a camp in 1940. Rehabilitated November 27, 1956.
Kotova, Nadya. Arrested with her mother, June 12, 1936. Permanently rehabilitated November 27, 1956. She lives in Kazakhstan and is a music teacher.
The film is dedicated to everyone who was burnt by the sun of Revolution.
Good movie. I was wondering where it was going. I enjoyed the wonderful family atmosphere, but was getting impatient. What is the purpose of all this family love? But near the end of the movie, we finally learn what is really going on. The wait was worth it. Mitya has come to arrest the war hero Colonel for treason and he surely will be executed by the Soviets. If a war hero was not safe from Stalin's purges and general paranoid madness, who was? The obvious answer, unfortunately, was: No One.
Stalin was responsible for the death of around 24 million people in the Soviet Union. He was mentally ill, suffering from paranoia, and assuaged his fears by eliminating any possible opponents. Hitler on the right and Stalin on the left are united in their barbarity. Let's hope they are both rotting in hell.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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