An extraordinary drama set against the Russian Civil War, Commissar is a "brave, humane, and powerful work" (The New York Times) that tells the story of Klavdia Vavilova, a fierce Red Army woman warrior who accidentally puts herself ahead of the needs of the Revolution - by becoming pregnant. Vavilova's superiors commandeer a room for her with Yefim, a Ukrainian Jewish tinsmith, his wife and six children. Yefim is outraged that yet another burden has been placed upon his family by the fledgling Soviet government. But Bolshevik doctrinaire and persecuted Russian Jew soon discover they have more in common than they knew. When her baby arrives and her old unit returns, Vavilova faces the hardest choice of her life: Either cast aside motherhood for revolutionary martyrdom, or remain with her new-born son and run the same risk of White Army pogroms and Red Army exploitation that Yefim's family have courageously endured.
Director Aleksandr Askoldov's visionary b&w wide-screen images evoke the iconography of Soviet silent film. At the same time, Commissar's intimate character portraiture reveals the influence of vanguard 60's cinema. Shot in 1967, the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution and the same year the USSR opposed Israel in the Six-Day War, Commissar's trenchant examination of Soviet anti-Semitism and the personal side of political struggle sat poorly with Russian censors, who banned the film until 1988. Available for the first time on DVD, Aleksandr Askoldov's Commissar assumes its overdue place as a milestone of character-driven, visually poetic world cinema.
M. GORKY FILM STUDIO presents
A film by ALEKSANDR ASKOLDOV
COMMISSAR NONNA MORDYUKOVA, ROLAN BYKOV, RAISA NEDASHKOVSKAYA, LYUDMILA VOLYNSKAYA, and VASILI SHUKSHIN
Production Design SERGEI SERREBRENNIKOV
Music ALFRED SCHNITTKE
Editing NATALYA LOGINOVA, SVETLANA LYASHINSKAYA, and NINA VASILYEVA
Cinematography VALERI GINZBURG
Written by ALEKSANDR ASKOLDOV
From the Short Story "In the Town of Berdichev" by VASILI GROSSMAN Directed by ALEKSANDR ASKOLDOV
Copyright 1967 M. GORKY FILM STUDIO
"Aleksandr Askoldov’s 1967 Commissar combines the visual brilliance that one associates with the best Soviet filmmaking together with an uncommon emotional depth and sincerity." ***1/2 Highly Recommended Video Librarian
"A BRAVE, HUMANE AND POWERFUL WORK... image after stunning image." - WALTER GOODMAN, The New York Times
SILVER BEAR - Berlin Film Festival
BEST FILM - INT'L CRITICS PRIZE - Berlin Film Festival