LETTERS FROM A DEAD MAN
(Prsma Myortvovo Chelovyeka)
Despite the bleakness of the subject, Letters from a Dead Man manages to be an extraordinarily optimistic film. The final image of Rolan Bykovs professor walking away into the blizzard with the children, Along as a man walks, he shall have hope, is a remarkably proffering of humanist faith. There are moments of striking poetry to the dialogue, especially the narrated letters of the professor to his son. This is possibly due to the hand of Boris Strugatsky, who with his brother Arkady was one of the few science-fiction writers in the Soviet Union, the two producing works like Tale of the Troika (1968), Hard to Be a God (1973) and Roadside Picnic (1977), the latter liberally adapted by themselves as Andrei Tarkovskys Stalker (1979).
The detonation of the bomb itself is an image of great beauty where the detonation of a model cityscape is strikingly contrasted with a soundtrack that only consists of an operatic score and the half-intelligible babblings of a child in the background. There are times when Letters from a Dead Man trips up with the stodgy ponderousness that seemingly dogs all Russian science-fiction films the scenes with one of Rolan Bykovs colleagues toasting the nobility of the human race and then sitting in a grave to blow his brains out, or one womans lectures on how she can try and spontaneously evolve to live with radiation have a contrarily humorous note to them where it is hard to tell whether the film was approaching things with tongue planted in cheek or not. Most of the film is shot in sepia-tone alternating with a harsh fluorescent blue black-and-white, with the exception of a single colour scene.
The Strugatsky Brothers books have produced a number of film adaptations, the most famous being Andrei Tarkovskys loose adaptation of Roadside Picnic in Stalker (1979), along with other works such as The Dead Mountaineers Hotel (1979), The Sorcerers (1982), Days of Eclipse (1989), Hard to Be a God (1989), The Temptation of B. (1991), the two-part Inhabited Island (2008) and its sequel Inhabited Island: Rebellion (2009), and Hard to Be a God (2013).
Full film available online here (no English subs):-