1990 Directed by Mikhail Belikov. Starring Sergei Shakurov, Tatiana Kochemasova, Alexii Cerebriakov, Marina Mogilevskaya, Alexii Gorbunov.
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Aug. 21, 1992
On April 26, 1986 in the Ukraine region of what was then the Soviet Union, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in a catastrophic meltdown and released massive, deadly amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere. Millions living in the entire region were rudely thrust into a chaotic state of terror, confusion, and deception as the Soviet authorities -- through the tight-lipped machinations of their pawns in the media -- first shrouded the disaster in mystery, then continued to minimize the severity of its impact. Director/writer Belikov -- who, at the time, resided in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine -- derives the inspirational basis for Raspad (which means “collapse”) from his personal experiences and various other eyewitness accounts, and proceeds to deftly shape his feature into an exceptional, uncompromising work that is a mixture evocative of epics, documentaries, intimate drama, and science fiction. The narrative is centered around a journalist (Shakurov) who has just returned from assignment in Greece to his home in Kiev -- and to an anonymous revelation that his wife (Kochemasova) is probably having an affair with a well-connected cog in the Communist Party (Gorbunov). On the evening of the disaster, the journalist makes plans for a future visit with a friend who happens to be a worker at Chernobyl -- and will soon have the distinction of being its very first victim -- while a young couple (Cerebriakov and Mogilevskaya) unsuccessfully attempt to have the young woman's elderly grandfather permanently institutionalized and out of their cramped apartment before their wedding the very next day. Save for those directly involved in the unfolding horror, confusion and misinformation soon reigns as no one fully comprehends the chilling significance associated with the endless descent of trucks, buses, emergency vehicles, and individuals clad in protective gear. Only the eerie aura of denial prevails in the form of televised bicycle races and May Day parades as government officials quietly scramble to get their families and themselves out of the area as quickly as possible. Shot on actual locations in Kiev, and in and around Chernobyl itself, Raspad raises itself to cinematic brilliance through rich performances and memorable, textured moments that grip the viewer and linger, especially in light of the accident's ramifications: a probable excess of 2,000,000 victims, including 7,000 to 10,000 dead -- all who paid the price of a decaying government's deception and betrayal. It is this startling fact which only reinforces the underlying agenda of Belikov's film -- that it is up to art “to continue to try and teach man something.”