Sep 27, 2012

Review: Chekist - 1992

Director: Aleksandr Rogozhkin

Cheka – pre KGB, is the Russian secret police. They arrest, prosecute and execute enemies of the state in a matter of minutes. This is part of everyday life and it’s the same thing over and over again. A few officers decide in a rapid manner if the prisoners will face the firing squad or not. Well, they always meet the same fate in the basement. They are put five at a time against wooden doors in the basement and shot in the back of the head. Then the next five takes their place and so on. The bodies are then hauled out through the roof and soon forgotten. It’s the same business every day, enough to drive anyone mad!

First of all I had to admit that I never heard of this until Film Bizarro Releasing released it a few days ago. I was lucky enough to get one of the copies which are limited to just 50 and probably already sold out. But enough of that, onward to the movie!

It’s presented in 4:3 which is kind of annoying but watchable. I have no idea what the correct aspect ratio of the film is (I never even heard if it remember) but I’m so used to widescreen these days that it’s strange watching to TV screen with black vertical blacks at the left and right. The picture quality itself is ok I guess, beggars can’t be choosers and you have to take what you can get. Ok, that sounded like a complaint about the picture quality but I didn’t mean it that way at all. The picture looks fine, but compared to Hollywood blockbusters it’s a bit blurry of course.

As I never heard of the movie before (I keep repeating myself) I had few clues to what it was about. The Secret police executing criminals isn’t that much information really. But then I read something about the main character descending into madness. That’s very interesting! Did that mean that he would go berserk on the victims and sadistically torment then even more before their executions? Well… eh… no! On the contrary actually!

The executions are everyday business and it’s more or less portrayed as going to work, doing the job and going home again. I think that this is the main point, day in and day out of executing people must take its toll eventually. No human can live with that and rationalize the actions of being just, even if you can convince yourself that the good of the state itself is the most important thing and that the people of it is nothing more than secondary. That’s kind of the political aspect of it as I see it, sort of anticommunism.

Obviously there is the psychological view of it. To paraphrase Bob Dylan: How many times can you turn you head, pretending you just don’t see? In the end many of the Cheka looses it in one way or the other. One of them tries to hang himself, another almost gets himself shot. The truth is that it’s the dysfunctional society is to blame not the individuals that carries out the dirty work.

The film is an unsettling disturbing experience that’s not very entertaining. And that’s also the point with it. The executions are not glamorized in any way; they are dirty and in your face and should affect you. The point is to let the film get to you and dare to watch it in a serious state of mind.


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