It took Aleksei German almost ten years to create this film, a detailed and eccentric picture of the soviet reality. The main character director of a neurological clinic, and a general of medical service, escapes from his own house, as he feels than he is about to get arrested.
In 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, a series of arrests related to so called Doctors Plot occurred. Trying to avoid a possible Gulag sentence or execution, General Klensky goes through the cold hell of senseless, desperate life full of fear.
Aleksei German’s way of story-telling skips the usual connections between scenes (Evgenii Margolit, Wrong Logic) as unnecessary. One scene naturally flows into the other, all taking place in an endless cold field, where as Lubov Arkus says, there’s only sky, earth, winter, and people.
The main story line is this travel through all these endless corridors of mental institutions, dormitories, people screaming at each other and not hearing each other. Tired Klensky tries to protect himself from children armed with wooden sticks, who beat him up without any reason, for fun or to let out the anger. He gets raped by Gulag prisoners, while being transported in car, which ironically has Soviet Champagne written on it. And finally, he arrives at the Stalin’s death bed, the last hope, a brilliant doctor, but he’s not able to help.
After going through all these things he abandons his family and his house and himself and joins a train going through endless empty fields with other tramps, singing and laughing but not escaping and no happiness in this laugh