This brilliant film beautifully conveys the arrest, imprisonment and poetry of Eugenia Ginzburg, a Jewish Russian literature professor. She was wife to Kazan mayor Pavel Aksyonov, a member of the USSR's Central Executive Committee in the largest city of Russia's Tartarstan until her arrest in February 1937.
The acting, scenery, music and poetry are all divine. This is one of the best films I have seen of late, and the recitation of the poetry is truly inspirational.
Ginzburg's troubles, like those of millions more, started with the Dec. 1, 1934 assassination of first secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party and staunch Stalin loyalist, Sergey Kirov, which launched the Great Purge.
In 1937 and 1938 alone, Stalin and his minions ordered the “legal” executions of some 700,000. An estimated 18 million Soviets were exiled to Siberian prison camps, from which 5 million never returned. Overall, Robert Conquest estimates that Stalin murdered at least 20 million, including those who died in great, party-induced famines.
In February 1937, Ginzburg was arrested for her alleged work with a “counter-revolutionary Trotskyist group” at the Krasnaya Tatariia newspaper. Officials had already apprehended her communist party card (effectively itself a criminal conviction). She never participated in any such activities by in Stalinist Russia such facts did not matter. Tried in August 1937 in a 7-minute proceeding, she was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, a great relief to her, as she had expected a death sentence.
So much Soviet era poetry, chiseled with words alone (often secret and hidden from the authorities) is so stupendously magnificent. Ginzburg, Joseph Brodsky, Anna Akhmatova, Daniil Andreev, and on and on, many like Ginzburg deeply inspired by Pushkin, stands out for its extraordinary beauty.
This finely wrought movie represents the genre and era very well.