Kaarel Tarand: Matrossov's casting

Kaarel Tarand.
Kaarel Tarand. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Ruthless dictators who unleashed war in Europe knew Lenin and Goebbels' doctrine according to which the art of cinema is the most important. The Russian Culture Ministry has now issued a decree based on which filmmakers can apply for state support, Kaarel Tarand says in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

According to the subcutaneous injection or silver bullet theory in mass communication and behavioral psychology, it is possible to inject important messages into people's brains directly and in a way to affect their behavior. People will do what the author of the message wants.

This conviction was one of the reasons why the U.S. administration took control of Hollywood and put all of its power at the disposal of war propaganda when it entered World War II. Ruthless dictators who unleashed war in Europe knew Lenin and Goebbels' doctrine according to which cinema is the most important of all the arts. It was cinema against cinema in the world war, which Hollywood eventually won.

Today, when ruthless Russia is again increasingly relying on Stalinist stuff in its doctrine, on the battlefield and weaponry, it would be nothing short of a miracle for cinema to be left out. And, sure enough, it hasn't been – but new stuff is also needed to complement the oldies.

The Russian Ministry of Culture last week issued a decree based on which filmmakers – only domestic ones, of course, not foreign agents – can apply for state funding. The grant is worthy of a major power – 12 billion rubles for next year and nearly 13 billion for 2024, which according to Moscow's own exchange rate comes to a few hundred million euros a year. A sum Estonian filmmakers couldn't spend even if they had a decade to do it in.

Parallels with Soviet cult spy series "Seventeen Moments of Spring" are hardly coincidental as the ministry has detailed 17 priority topics movies on which can qualify for support. A few topics serve the purpose of misleading the enemy. Let the Americans get a headache trying to figure out why Russia is commissioning movies on young people's motivation to become laborers or engineers or popularizing the medical profession.

But the lion's share of state film commission is straightforward. In general, productions of the next few years are expected to promote ancient Russian culture and traditional social values; resist attempts to falsify history and suppress every modern manifestation of Nazism and fascism.

The heroes of these films need to be soldiers and officers defending and liberating their homeland but also civilians who, driven by an inner compulsion and understanding of Russia's historical mission as the guarantor of world peace, have heroically and by sacrificing themselves joined the struggle for a new multipolar world that has no place for Ango-Saxon neocolonialism and degrading Europe.

Of course, Russian soldiers who want to live up to their forebears must not confine themselves to liberating so-called narrow or new Russian territories, and everything needs to take place according to World War II scenarios, known in the east as the Great Patriotic War and simply "victory."

The ministry decree makes it clear that films need to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1945 victory. This allows more conclusions to be drawn as to the Kremlin's cast of mind. The "victory" or conquering and occupying for decades half of Europe following WWII, which became the axis of official ideology, needs to be celebrated with a new and equally magnificent victory in the "military special operation." The victory parade that was canceled this spring, much to the dismay of Russian leaders, must be possible next year or 2025 at the latest.

This means that the victory itself must be achieved much sooner as it takes time to make movies and mass scenes need to be filmed in maximally lifelike conditions. The Russian-Soviet movie industry have never been a bunch of fakes making illusions in studios or computers. That means the need for authentic battlefields in the Donbas on which crowds and heavy machinery must move. Moscow's persistent demands for the West to stop sending munitions to the set serve the purpose of allowing sovereign Russia to concentrate on filmmaking in peace.

But that is only half of it. The greatest obstacle on the path of Russian cinema and national unity that relies on it comes from prissy Western movie stars. The reoccurring victory scenario of historical truth requires the successes of Russian arms against powers in the west to go hand-in-hand with meetings and secret deals between leaders in Tehran and Yalta. Right now, not even Berlin and Washington B-listers have been convinced to attend, not to mention the big players in London and Washington. It may end up being their fault that great art will not be born, without which the great victory might also not arrive.

But one thing is clear: as Moscow spares no expense to repeat everything that served the Soviet power, it will all end just as spectacularly as the Soviet Union did in 1991.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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