dir. Mikhail Romm
Sat 7:30, Sun 8:00
Last weekend, I crammed into a theater with about 200 other people to watch one of the most nauseatingly patriotic films I've ever seen: Pearl Harbor. As the curtain rose, I was so disturbed by the final, celebratory shots of America bombing the hell out of Japan, that I nearly chucked my backpack at the head of the people who sat ahead of me, clapping no less.
Okay, so this review's not about Pearl Harbor. It is about bombs and patriotism, however. Nine Days of One Year, was made in the USSR in 1961, and it's part of a collection of Soviet films made directly after Khruschev's 20th Party Congress denouncement--when artists were free for the first time in 30 years to make controversial films. It's a romance/drama that looks at the ways in which science, and the creation of weapons, deeply affected every aspect of the lives of people living in the USSR.
Mitya is a committed communist working on a nuclear experiment that would change the world, and more specifically, USSR's nuclear arsenal. He's also involved in a complicated love triangle with another nuclear scientist, Lyolya. Their relationship is a vehicle that explores the effect zealous communist and scientific beliefs have on one's emotions.
In the beginning of the film, Lyolya's chooses to marry Mitya, even though he's so completely focused on being the super star communist scientist that he rarely has time to talk to her, let alone be a husband. But she falls for him because he needs her; he's been exposed to so many evil chemicals, he's quickly dying.
While Mitya's health fails, he cares less and less for his career, communism, and bombs, and more and more for Lyolya. The message is pretty clear: science and communism fuck up people's priorities. But there's also a deeper study of the necessity of both of these institutions. "War promotes science," a scientist says humbly in the middle of the film. "That's the poisonous paradox of the 20th Century." Nine Days does an excellent job of remaining ambivalent and curious, rather than sending a particularly patriotic or un-patriotic message; a feat at which one particular American movie fails miserably.