Dead Man's Letters (1986)

  |  Drama, Sci-Fi


Dead Man's Letters (1986) Poster

The world after the nuclear apocalypse. Pale light lits the scenery of total destruction. The surviving humans vegetate in wet cellars under the nuclear winter. But somehow human spirit ... See full summary »

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7.7/10
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3 April 2018 | Rodrigo_Amaro
5
| I was expecting a little more from this one
Unpopular opinion here but I'd like to think I have the basis for not liking or totally endorsing a film that could be a minor masterpiece of its era. "Letters from a Dead Man" could be interpreted as a response to the Chernobyl disaster, which took place a few months prior to the film's release. It could also be viewed as a response to the American/UK films about the frequent nuclear disaster and possible outcome of atomic bombs being dropped to a nation. Director Konstantin Lopushanskiy's first feature film obviously couldn't been an attack to the Soviets, their delay in spreading the news to the world and the way they dealt with the whole situation. Instead, he creates an apocalyptical world post-nuclear attack and how people survive in shelters and watered pits, trying to live with their best means they can while men, women and children keep on dying or having to face strict control by their own people - for instance, when the kids aren't allowed to enter a more safer place. Doctors keep on doing their job but it's all hopeless and no one can get out to the surface to see what's left after the blast, a world turned into a red dust, shattered and with some military forces telling us that people aren't allowed to go outside unless they have a pass. The film's point of view is from a scientist who reflects about not only his conflicts about a major part in creating the technology that caused the world's collapse and killed humanity, or reduced it to a future death sentence but he also ponders about (in letters) to his missing son - who is probably dead - and reminds of how their life used to be. Simple yet frank letters, yet they don't carry a higher sense of usefulness or, in this case, I deeply wanted a sort of sentimentality. To me, those letters were just a nostalgia that led to nowhere. I cared more for the character when he despertaly tried to get out of the pit and try to look for his son then just keep reminiscing about a life that is no longer there.

The "Stalker" like visuals are cool but they're empty and void without the master's visual touch and sublime poetry. Konstantin makes a noble and valuable effort, a direct message to the Cold War world and its constant paranoia of bombing each other, with threats more real year went by but there's something missing: it's heartless, a snooze fest that fails to convince and to make us immersed in its calamity, the tragedy.

1980's. In the wake of similar themed works such as "The Day After", "Special Report", "Testament", "When the Wind Blows" and "Threads" (yet to be seen by me, despite hearing about this one being the most horrific and realistic of them all the forementioned films), this artistic Soviet response was bureacratic just as was the treatment given to the Chernoby disaster - in fact, this film comes as reply to the events that shook Ukraine on the same year and that's why it's so important to at least get a glimpse to this film. But the director's presentation is faulty, beyond claustrophobic and hard to make your heart pulse. Sure, "The Day After" contained some of those depressive qualities and we wonder if the world was going to end or continue after a nuclear fallout. But I was confused with "Letters...": for what I gathered it was an human error that detonated a nuclear device that turned everything into dust and radiation was spread, and government still found ways to control people with curfews, passes and contained people underground - pretty much what USSR would actually do in such scenario.

I disagree about the artist quote about art being useless/pointless - in the film context, it sort of works that way, but thinking a little deeper, art would probably be the only source of comfort for those in better shape/health. Imagination is what keeps us alive. Lopushanskiy had a few of it but not strong enough to create a shock to the senses, a catalyst for a deeper reflection despite the several thoughts shared by the characters about life and what's left of it after a disaster. I felt tired, depressed beyond my usual ways and didn't find any of those letters to Erick compelling, hearted or with some deep meaning.

For the most of it, I think most people are seeing way too much about the film's message. It's there but it's too convoluted and almost inaccessible to most audiences. And I film like that should have been a little more down to audiences's earth. Like I said, it could be a minor masterpiece to make us reflect about mankind, the powers of be and how Chernobyl, though not being a nuclear attack of a nation against the other, made a whole shift in the gear when it comes to what nuclear energy was helpful in some ways but a disastrous and terrible thing for the environment and its people. In some brief moments, the story went quite well in dealing with such notion but it's just half way, doesn't go the extra mile needed for a higher discussion. 5/10

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