Last winter when I was researching love and communism, a professor of Russian literature at Berkeley suggested that I watch a film called “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears,” which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film way back in 1980. That poor DVD has sat next to our DVD player for MONTHS, and I finally settled in to watch it yesterday.
And…I was charmed by it. It was a sort of Soviet “Sex and the City.” Here’s the trailer:
“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” is the story of three women and starts in 1958, when they’re young factory workers in Moscow, and fast-forwards to 1978. There’s traditional Tanya, who marries her very nice beau and has a happy family life; scheming but lovable Lyudmila, who stops at nothing to snag the heart of a famous hockey player (and pays the price…you know that thing about Russian men and drinking?); and Katerina, the sharp and ambitious one who starts as a factory worker, becomes a single parent, goes to college, and rises to become a very successful factory director.
The film is of course largely about finding one’s mate and heartbreak, but one of the things I loved most about it was how it portrayed every day life and even the class system, such as it was, in the former Soviet Union — mostly through interiors. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve never been able to visualize every day life in the U.S.S.R. I mean, I know it was bleak, I know people stood in lines a lot, I know there was lot of despair and boozing and everyone worked in factories, but I didn’t have much of an idea what it actually looked like. In Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, I felt like I got a good look — street life, the relatively posh apartment of a well-to-do academic, the grim dormitory room the girls shared, a crowded family apartment, seventies decor done Soviet style. There was lots of red, cherry red — red curtains, red wallpaper, red shoes (oh, yeah, and I loved the costumes, especially the ones from ’58). I was mesmerized by it. And, of course it was particularly poignant now, given that the film was made nearly a decade before the collapse of the Soviet Union. There’s even a prescient bit where a TV cameraman pontificates about how TV will be in the future. He doesn’t quite describe the Internet, but almost…
So, if you’re on the hunt for a foreign film that’s available through Netflix and offers a big ole slice of history and nostalgia, give it a go and tell me what you think!