Hussein Erkenov – Sto dney do prikaza AKA 100 Days Before the Command (1994)

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Banned By The Soviets!

Visually astonishing, erotically charged and emotionally jarring, 100 Days Before The Command is Hussein Erkenov’s courageous and stinging indictment of communism.

Five young Red Army recruits struggle for survival against the merciless violence that surrounds them on a daily basis. Their only means of saving their dignity is by preserving the humanity and compassion they share for each other.

Although not an overtly gay film, Erkenov’s 100 Days Before The Command is remarkably direct in it’s homoerotic imagery and subtexts. The film includes scenes where the soldiers share an intimacy and tenderness that is far removed from the brutality of most of their waking hours. (Amazingly, all the roles are played by real-life soldiers except for one professional actor.)

Banned by Soviet censors upon its initial release, Erkenov was forced to create his own sales company in order for the film to be screened at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival. 100 Days Before The Command is a unique entry into the world of post-cold war filmmaking from behind the former Iron Curtain.

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Made in the final months of the Soviet Union, the film follows three young Red Army recruits, Zyrin, Belikov and Elin. The film has no narrative structure and rather than telling a story uses vignettes to show the conditions in which Soviet army recruits lived. The film is often homoerotic, the soldiers are shown to have very little privacy and are forced into such intimate acts as washing each other.

Plot: Five young Red Army recruits struggle for survival against the merciless violence that surrounds them on a daily basis. Their only means of saving their dignity is by preserving the humanity and compassion they share for each other. Visually astonishing, erotically charged and emotionally jarring, this film is Hussein Erkenov’s courageous and stinging indictment of Communisum. Banned by the Soviet censors upon its initial release the film had to be smuggled out of the country to make its world wide premier at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival.

Review: Shot in 1990, but not seen outside Russia until the director took a print to the 1994 Berlin Film Festival, this expressive anti-militarist collage must have come as quite a shock to the Gorky studio which funded it and to the local army barracks which offered manpower and facilities. Both were apparently duped by a fake script, concealing the film’s swingeing assault on the brutality, dehumanisation and outright despair that was the ordinary Russian soldier’s lot. The film’s non-linear narrative encompasses a wider field of concern, however, than the strictly political. While one might rank director Erkenov’s work beside that of such mavericks as Tarkovsky and Paradjanov, the Uzbeki-born director is more directly confrontational in using the Russian realist tradition to his own ends, revealing harsh poetic truths about a country whose troops have served in the Afghan war and a recent series of internal conflicts. If the obfuscatory construction makes it hard-going at times, the film has a burning commitment and a forthright individuality that’s hard not to admire. Recommended to those with a strong constitution.

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Language(s):Russian
Subtitles:English, German embedded sub/idx

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