Filmed entirely in the now defunct Soviet Union in 1991, now Russia again, and based on real events, this film shows how life was for Ivan Saushin (Tom Hulce) and his dear wife Anastasia (Lolita Davidovich) more than twenty years after the Communist Revolution inspired their whole nation.
It’s 1939. The young loving couple live in a building on Slaughterhouse Street. There they are, celebrating their austere wedding in the apartment they share with several neighbors, surrounded by pictures of heroes of the Revolution and toasting to comrade and “father” Joseph Stalin, the man of steel in Russia, when suddenly, a group of soldiers bursts into the room and accuse one of the neighbors of treason, taking him away. The man’s wife and their child Katya remain behind in shock with the others.
Later in the night, other soldiers show up. This time they want Ivan. Because of his job as a projectionist at the KGB headquarters, he has been chosen to replace Stalin’s former one at the Kremlim where they have regarded the man as “sick” and unable to get back to work. And so, it begins the silent terror of being admitted into the inner circle of his admired leader. There he witnesses corruption, public humiliations, and blackmail. Every time he projects a film, it’s a chilling and stressful event. Any small mistake can cost him dearly. Everything is questioned and viewed with suspicion. A simple joke can brand him as a counterrevolutionary, putting his life in danger.
Although Ivan’s wife, Anastasia, tries to adopt Katya after the girl’s mother is also arrested and taken away, it’s in vain. Katya is taken to an orphanage for children whose parents are “traitors to the state.” Ivan dismisses the severity of this family’s tragedy by aligning with the official version of them being “spies.” He feels conveniently content since his new job offers some benefits he’s never had before. Soon, he and Anastasia move into what was Katya’s family more spacious room.
It’s not until too late, when Ivan realizes the high price he has paid for his blind allegiance to a leader and his regime. At Stalin’s funeral, while thousands trample over each other to see their beloved tyrant for the last time, Ivan recognizes a young Katya in the distance and rushes to her, Anastasia’s words weighting heavily on his conscience.
Tom Hulce (Ivan) who had played Mozart previously in the great film Amadeus, gives his character a genuine naive-comical expression of someone who seems to be permanently walking on thin ice. His supporting actors also portray authentically their roles. From Anastasia (Dovidovic), Katya (Bess Meyer), the Chief of Intelligence, Beria (Bob Hoskins) to Stalin (Alexandre Zbruev), all of them recreate powerfully this dramatic story about questionable loyalties, priorities , and love.
See also with Tom Hulce: Dominick and Eugene (1988)
See also with Lolita Davidovic: Leap of Faith (1992)
See also with Bob Hoskins: Mussolini and I (1985)