Staunton, May 16 – A 1986 film that was released in the immediate wake of Chernobyl and passed almost unnoticed showed something remarkable, Maksim Mirovich says, what the USSR might have been had it not been suffused with sovietism and what Russia and the other post-Soviet states could yet be if they get rid of the Soviet elements in their culture.
Mirovich, a commentator who specializes in comparing Soviet and Russian experience says the film, “Over the Rainbow,” shows what the country could have been like “without the constant ideological processing, without the financing of cannibal regimes throughout the world and without the failure of the regime to pay attention to its own citizens.”
In short, he says, the film shows not “’the population’ but Citizens, who have their own positions on all issues, make independent decisions on how to raise their children, master interesting professions, and do not wait for ‘free gifts’ from the state.” As a result, and in contrast to those in the Soviet USSR, “they live happily” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=609F5561139F7). “It is very sad,” Mirovich continues, “that this country did not exist in reality and exists even now only in the imaginations of the authors of the film,” although of course there are examples of where this alternative world really exists, such as Finland, which once was part of the Russian Empire but escaped in good time.
The film tells the story of a young man from an artistic family who aspires to be a great athlete. He is granted his wish on condition that he not tell any lies. And at first he succeeds. But under Soviet conditions, he finds it impossible not to lie and loses his sudden athletic gifts.
By hard work, however, he reclaims them.
He lives with his parents, a composer and a dress designer, in an apartment large and tastefully furnished and unlike those of most Soviet people. More important, his parents treat him as a member of the family, ask and value his opinions, and do not treat him like some lesser being they can order about.
The school he goes to is at odds with Soviet practice as well. It is “an absolutely non-Soviet school.” No one is wearing a uniform; no one has a Pioneer kerchief; and the teachers are interested in their subjects and their students and interact with them like human beings rather than like burdens they have to put up with.
And the city in which this all takes place is equally non-Soviet. Nominally, the film was made in Odessa, but most of the scenes were filmed in Tallinn, Estonia, where the impact of Sovietism on the urban landscape was far less because so much of the pre-Soviet had managed to survive.
The film thus showed what life could have been like in the USSR had the country not been sovietized, something that would have allowed all of its people a better future and could still be the foundation for their achieving happiness in the future, Mirovich suggests.