USSR, Dovzhenko Film Studio, 1967, 75 min., color
Director: Mikola Vingranovs'kii
Screenplay: Alexander Levada
Music: Vladimir Guba
With: Mikola Vingranovs'kii, Ausma Kantane, Iurii Leonidov, El'za Radzin', Vladimir Zel'din.
Two nuclear physicists – American Dr. Sherwood and Russian Dr. Makarov – rethink the further directions of their respective projects. Dr. Makarov tries to promote a peaceful use of nuclear power and establish an international project for developing a nuclear-powered water desalination technology, while Dr. Sherwood, the father of the American A-bomb, is asked to develop an even more powerful nuclear device. Sherwood's new boss is a recently naturalized American and a former Nazi war criminal. Sherwood knows that his boss will not take "no" for an answer and decides to commit suicide by exposing himself to a deadly dose of radiation. Sherwood uses his slow death as the material for his medical research because he is not only a physicist but also a medical doctor.
Dr. Sherwood is originally from a small island in the Pacific not far from an American nuclear testing site. His entire family gradually dies out because of the exposure to nuclear fallout products, or as the locals call them the "silver ash." Finally when his little nephew, Johnny, gets sick, he asks Makarov to fly him to the Soviet Union and fight the disease that cannot be cured in the West.
Both Dr. Sherwood and Dr. Makarov have surrogate families. Dr. Sherwood's double is U.S. Air Force pilot major Grisly, who dropped the atomic bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima. Grisly goes insane from guilt and ends up in an insane asylum. Sherwood's brain child is his bomb: the "Little Boy." By the logic of the film, the doctor's surrogate family exterminates his biological one.
Makarov's surrogate son and disciple is a Czech physicist, Vatslav Kupka, (Vingranovs'kii), who is the only hope of humanity. He works on peaceful applications of nuclear power and even makes love to Sherwood's daughter. While on screen, Kupka combines cerebral power with fertility; on the soundtrack, Vingranovs'kii's own poetry creates a verbal equivalent of biological life in the film. Most importantly, in the film the Soviet family is heterogeneous, that is, both Makarov and Kupka possess individualized ethnic identities (Russian and Czech respectively), while the American family gravitates toward erasing any individuality.
The filmmaker is Alexander Dovzhenko's student and the metaphoric style of the film continues the teacher's tradition of a poetic, pantheistic cinema. In the film the ocean of despair divides two shores, the Cold War opponents, and this ocean's desalination becomes a metaphor for bringing reason and hope to the humanity on the brink of nuclear disaster.
Mikola Stepanovich Vingranovs'kii
Mikola Stepanovich Vingranovs'kii was born on September 7, 1936 in Pervomaisk, Ukraine. He started his creative career as a Ukrainian language poet, an important choice in the Soviet Empire, where Russian language and literature were one of the major tools of Imperial identity. Vingranovs'kii is one of the key figures in the Ukrainian Thaw or the generation of the 1960s. In 1968 he was among 139 Ukrainians who signed a letter to Leonid Brezhnev protesting against the show trials of dissidents in Ukraine and in Moscow. Currently he is the head of the Ukrainian PEN-Club.
He published his first poetry collection Atomic Preludes in 1962, the same year he graduated from the All Union State Institute of Filmmaking (VGIK). He owes his film career to Alexander Dovzhenko, who discovered and invited him to the Institute. Vingranovs'kii is known primarily as a filmmaker. However, he started his career as an actor. He starred in Iulia Solntseva's A Tale of Flaming Years (1960) and worked as an actor at the Dovzhenko Studio.
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