Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: My Perestroika

There are two important themes in Robin Hessman's documentary, My Perestroika - Nostalgia is relentless and grows on every memory; and patriotism is far more deeply rooted than simple military parades and flag-waving, and infinitely varied.
Concerning the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the film tells us Russia's recent history through candid interviews with 5 Muscovites who came of age in the late 80s and early 90s as part of the last generation to grow up behind the so-called Iron Curtain, along with frenetic contemporary footage of the transformative time in question.
One brilliant sequence comes as the subjects recall the wave of political upheaval that swept the Soviet Socialist Republics. It begins with a performance of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, but soon intercuts dramatic black and white footage of tanks rolling through the streets Moscow. The ballet's impassioned refrain swirls around the urban-bound artillery to form the emotional apex of the film.
For an American, particularly one brought up since the events discussed, the film is an immersive if sometimes bewildering history lesson, related by those who lived it. Like any patriot, they each have a complicate and ever evolving relationship with their homeland. Some insist that life was better in the Soviet Union, and indeed all share at least some degree of wistful, inevitable nostalgia for that bygone era. Others are glad of the USSR's evaporation, while some are just as disaffected and dissatisfied now as they were then. Running through every interview is the sense that life goes on, that this too shall pass. Each person's complacency was shaken by the fall of the Iron Curtain; it taught them that the future is never certain.

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