AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

12/10/08

CARGO 200 A VOYAGE INTO LIVING HORROR, RUSSIAN STYLE
Direcor: Aleksei Balabanov

Plot:
CARGO 200 begins in 1984 with the introduction of two brothers: a Soviet Army colonel, and the head of the Faculty of Scientific Communism at Leningrad University. The university professor travels to visit his mother in a remote town. When his car brakes down, he stops at a rural farmhouse occupied by a husband, wife and their Vietnamese farm hand. The professor engages in a philosophical argument about the existence of God with the family patriarch, whose heated criticisms of official atheism are fueled by Utopian dreams and vodka distilled in the family barn.

Meanwhile, a young man and the daughter of a Soviet secretary of a regional party committee meet at a party. The couple decides to take a drive, and their destination is the rural farmhouse. Lurking in the shadows of the farmhouse is Zhurov, a character vaguely based on Russian serial killer Gennady Mikhasevich. Although Mikhasevich was simply a depraved lunatic, Balabanov presents Zhurov as an emblem of both human perversion and the manifest corruption of the Soviet government. Zhurov’s appearance signals a series of loathsome events that form the rest of the film's narrative.

COMMENTARY
Aleksei Balabanov is a strong anti communist. He is also a gifted film maker and Cargo 200 is a testament to his genius.
He knows how to twist the truth just enough to create a film that is truly vile There I was riveted to the screen, to the story and even the gory details did not prompt me to get up, get out of sight of this extravaganza of a smite on a regime that I can not truly embrace.
Communism in Russia in the 1980s couldn't have been so corrupt, so difficult to live under. Certainly it wasn't as bad as Stalin but according to this director my impression is wrong.
He has made a film that simulates and pretends to be a documentary when in fact it is a function of his imagination, one that is filmed with material taken from real life, using actors who appear; to be ordinary non actor people but the truth remains, Cargo 200 is a film and not a documentary.

This is an important distinction. Confusion of this sort is the basis of the most deceptive propaganda. Every frame, every moment is designed to bring to the attention of an unknowing viewer the horrors of Communism, Russian style that many consider not communist but a totalitarian resign without the fundamentals of a communist economic system. And what is it now? Hasn't an upper middle class been created at the expense of the quality of life of the working class. History needs more of a conversation than Balabanov has offered.

I don't know whether to recommend the film to be seen or to be avoided but it is certainly a controversial film

You decide. On a night when you are teetering on boredom this film will push you far away from this uncomfortable emotional mundane state of human existence.


opens in New York on January 2, 2009

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective

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