CHEKIST (1992)

Written by Greigh Johanson

First and foremost I have to say that Chekist doesn't mocks the early Soviet power. It only shows (just as Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) some fantasy-portrait as entanglement around issues of life and death. It is a powerful film directed by Alexander Rogozhkin. It's also based on Vladimir Notch's novel "Sliver" from 1923.

The main character of this drama is an officer - an obedient servant and a representative of the state. Unfortunately, he is a functionary in the new Bolshevik regime, and the agency he works for is Cheki - the feared state security police. His mission demands that he take the lists he gets of anti-Soviet persons to be arrested. He makes sure that it's correct people who are caught, kept in captivity, questioned, undressing, killed and buried . Day after day this is repeated by meaningless ritual that eventually dig through his thick skin and soon he becomes somewhat insane.

While a film like Chekist almost's beyond all criticism is a powerful gem, there are some flaws as well - The rather facile "Freudian" explains the protagonist's viciousness and the epilogue that unconsciously mocks the traditional and revolutionary view of the Cheka. The real vision of history was organized on Lenin's orders under the command of Feliks Dzerzhinski and its only task was to necessarily eradicate and destroy the counter-revolutionary activities. The mass murder was really no problem at that time. But what the film "Chekist" does is to show how this was carried out in the simplest way possible - The result is a chapter of The Gulag Archipelago. The film puts its starting point straight up in our faces, and therefore it is very difficult to react in normal basis.

I think that nine out of ten viewers will fail the task to understand the middle part of this film. It consists mass executions by mass executions till it finally reach the very last point of hallucinations. This is the only way for the film to manages to put the story in its proper place. The spectacle, the auspices as well as the music-selection is well made and even if some scenes consist a relatively low budget compared to the Western standards, Alexander Rogozhkin have succeeded to make an extraordinarily stylish experience just as many other Russian directors.

It's very hard for me to compile a fair review to this film, but Chekist is a stylistic arthouse-film that succeeds restrained point of outrage and it's difficult to determine how much Rogozhkin involves historical notes and how much imagination derived from such a comment. This isn't an easily digestible or fun film to watch, it's extremely powerful and disturbing. But I highly recommends it to those who are interested in Soviet history.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Directed by: Aleksandr Rogozhkin
Written by: Jacques Baynac, André Milbet
Produced by: ?
Cinematography by: Valeri Myulgaut
Editing by: Tamara Denisova
Special Effects by: ?
Music by: ?
Cast: Igor Sergeev, Aleksey Poluyan, Mikhail Vasserbaum, Sergei Isavnin, Vasiliy Domrachyov, Aleksandr Medvedev, Aleksandr Kharashkevich, Igor Golovin, Nina Usatova,
Viktor Khozyainov, Ivan Shvedoff, Sergey Zamorev, Tatyana Zhuravlyova.

Year: 1992
Country: Russia
Language: Russian, French
Color: Color
Runtime: 1h 29min

Distributor: Film Bizarro Releasing.