Friday, May 01, 2015

"Child 44", a grim Stalin-era drama, sets the backkground for anti-gay attitudes in modern Russia

Child 44”, filmed in the Czech Republic with largely British production facilities, directed by Daniel Espinosa, is based on the first of a trilogy of novels by Tom Rob Smith about a Stalinist era Soviet agent Leo Demidov, played here by Tom Hardy.  The first novel is based on the history of a series of child murders by Andrei Chikatilo.
In this rather long film, Demidov is disgraced and reassigned, but then he becomes passionate about investigating the murders. 
At the midpoint, there is dialogue about “homosexuality”, that anticipates Russian anti-gay attitudes today (as explored in the documentary “Campaign of Hate”, shown at HRC and reviewed here Oct. 14, 2014).  In particular, Demidov makes the trite and illogical connection to pedophilia, a belief that helped drive the Russian anti-gay propaganda law passed in 2013, and led to Putin’s comment (“please leave the kids alone”) before the Sochi Olympics. The film uses the ironic quote “There are no murders in paradise”, and the rest of the Soviet establishment is in denial that a communist society even “breeds” homosexuality, let alone pedophilia.  There is even some dialogue claiming that the perpetrator was incubated in Nazi Germany, which is portrayed as “western” and “capitalist”. 
The film looks like a period piece, with smaller Russian cities and factories, on the edge of Siberia, modeled well, as well as the steam trains, and Moscow is often shown with CGI as it probably looked in the 50s.   Still, the film, in English with considerable corporate support from Lionsgate, Summit, and Ridley Scott’s production company, looks a bit glossy, when compared to real Russian film (like “Leviathan, Jan. 28, 2015). Stalin’s Russia was even more horrible than it looks here (oh yes, the conservative critics will say this).  The film is obviously intended for “arthouse” distribution, but has a big budget and all-star, largely UK, cast, including Noomi Rapace (“Lizbeth”) as Reisa Demidov, Gary Oldman, and Vincent Cassel.
The official site is here  (Summit Entertainment).
I saw the film at the AMC Shirlington before a small Thursday night audience. 

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