English Sinema

Dead Man’s Letters

Konstantin Lopushansky’s science fiction presents a bleak vision of the future.

Kaynak – inrussia.com 

Science fiction has always been a strong genre for Soviet literature and cinematography. The state’s progress-oriented agenda, the space race, and the Cold War introduced futuristic visions of technology and space travel to the populace. Such ideas naturally led to contemplation of the darker side of technological growth: possible unplanned outcomes and the responsibilities that accompany progress.

By touching upon the philosophical and ethical aspects of development, such works aim to disturb viewers. The best-known example of this would be Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” an art film loosely based on the Strugatsky brothers’ novel “Roadside Picnic,” with an original script of their authorship. Early work by the brothers was associated with the popular notion of a bright future and the wonders of technological advance. Yet, in the mid-1960s, apocalyptic images appeared in their work and a new central theme had emerged: the morality of a person forced to choose between the bad and the worse. Set during the aftermath of an inexplicable event, both the novel and the film became milestones of Russian intellectual science fiction.

Tarkovsky’s assistant on “Stalker” was Konstantin Lopushansky, a Ukrainian-born film theorist, author and director. Lopushansky continued developing the themes explored by his predecessor, but with an uncompromising approach all his own. One of the few true auteurs of Soviet and Russian cinema, Lopushansky always prioritized the artistic and intellectual in his work. His most recognized film “Dead Man’s Letters” is a science fiction parable set in a post-apocalyptic world. Boris Strugatsky contributed to the script, and themes of despair, uncertainty and disappointment in scientific progress (which led to nuclear war) are prevalent throughout the movie. While healthy people are admitted into underground bunkers, the remaining population struggles to survive in basements. Deeply troubled by humanity’s demise, the film’s protagonist sustains himself by writing imaginary letters to his son, even though the boy won’t ever receive them.

The film’s release in 1986 coincided with the Chernobyl disaster, making its imagery all the more shocking. Konstantin Lopushansky continued to explore possible bleak futures with “A Visitor to a Museum” in 1989 and adapted the Strugatsky brothers’ work once again in 2006, when he directed