in 1967 Aleksandr Askoldov finished working on his film Commissar, this artistic achievement cost him his livelihood and
career. The film was seized by the KGB without a single screening, whereas its
creator lost his job and was exiled from Moscow. Commissar was banned by the Soviet censors till the post-soviet era
of glasnost, when it was rediscovered, reconstructed and finally released in
1988. At that time it was screened at several major international film
festivals, reaping a number of highest awards and finding its rightful place
among the masterpieces of world cinema.
Askoldov’s Commissar is an adaptation of a short
story by Russia’s celebrated writer, Vassily Grossman. Set during the turbulent
time of the Civil War which followed the October Revolution of 1917, the film
brings together and clashes lives and outlooks of seemingly incompatible
people, bringing to the fore the eternal questions about value and meaning of
human existence, love and family. What does it mean to be human? What does it
take to be human at the time of historical cataclysms? Can one’s dedication to
the cause be more important than joys of private life? To what extent do our
allegiances define us? How do we decide, who is ‘our own’ and who is ‘the
other’? We will ponder questions to these and other questions, which this
rediscovered cinematic masterpiece prompts. At the same time we will
contemplate its artistic appeal and thematic relevance to the contemporary
do you, as a viewer, find appealing in Askoldov’s film “Commissar”?
Askoldov, claims that this film is about love, children, and family. What do
you think about this claim? What is this film about?
in your opinion is the main dilemma of The
4. Do you
agree with London Encyclopedia’s nomination of Nona Mordiukova, who plays in
Askoldov’s The Commissar Klavdia
Vavilova, as one of the top ten world actresses of the last century?
is unique and original about her portrayal of the Red Commissar Klavdia
does the film reveal Klavdia’s womanhood?
Askoldov’s film The Commissar (1967)
adopts to the screen Vasily Grossman’s short story, “In the town Berdichev”
(1934). The latter was praised by a number of Soviet literary critics and
enjoyed several publications in the thirties and sixties. Why then Askoldov’s
adaptation of Grossman’s short story was censored and banned? What aspects of
the film could be seen by the censors as anti-Soviet, “ideologically alien,”
subversive and inappropriate?
often film’s critics claim—and Askoldov admitted it too—that this film
glorifies the October Revolution and the ardor of the Civil War that followed.
Do you agree with this assessment? What imagery supports this opinion? What
aspects of the film subvert it?
would you define the genre of this film? In which way, if at all is it a
role do children play in the film?
scenes and episodes, shots and images stand out as especially significant and
does this film subvert the Soviet ideological claim about the equality of the sexes?
is neither blood nor wounds on the screen. Nor does the film show explicit
violence. How then does the film portray horrors of war?
does Klavdia Vavilova view the Magazannik family? What do Maria and Efim think
does the film director, Askoldov, achieve by showing the holocaust through
Klvadia Vavilova’s vision?
16. Why does Klavdia Vavilova
leave in the end?