Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on 27 June 2012
It is not hard to see why the post-Prague Spring regime banned this low key portrayal of men and women thrown together in the apocalyptic setting of a recycling foundry yard (shades of Mao's great Leap Forward).. There, a bunch of middle aged former intellectuals and mildly dissident men are working, under the assumption that work will cure them of their bad, bourgeois mentalities and habits. Next to them is a women prisoners camp: their crime was to attempt to defect. In between, guards and officials, trade unionists in the government pay and the secret police keep an eye on them, quietly whisking them away when they protest too loudly. In between, we are shown several shots of typical Soviet era banners lauding workers and encouraging the usual joyous forward march.
The men spend much of their time discussing philosophy, quoting Kant and Greek moralists, talking about sport, reminiscing and watching the women. There is dark humour and satire but overall, looking at them chatting quite freely and occasionally cavorting with the women prisoners under the benign look of a young guard, the viewer can't help thinking that their lot is overall better than that of the officials who march to orders mouthing their tired slogans. One scene shows a senile VIP visiting the yard, sounding of inanities, although retaining enough wit to get one of the workers arrested when the latter asks uncomfortable questions. Another shows a bunch of school children led by their teacher, visiting them like they would a zoo, the teacher pointing at them and denouncing their sins.
As a political satire it is understated and mild. As a film of human interest I found it rather "flat" as it never quite fully engages one, the characters portrayed somehow appearing quite (almost happily) resigned to their fate.
Overall an enjoyable film but...