Event, The (2015)

Loznitsa expertly puts footage together from Leningrad in August 1991 as tens of thousands of nervous Russians filled the streets, with the political fate of their country hanging in the balance after communist hardliners staged what would become a failed coup d’état to revive the collapsing Soviet Union. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,417

Dir. Sergei Loznitsa
2015 | Netherlands/Belgium | Documentary/History | 70 mins | 1.66:1 | Russian & English
Not rated – likely to be PG13

Plot: In August 1991 a failed coup d’état led by a group of hard-core communists in Moscow ended the 70-year-long rule of the Soviets. In Leningrad, thousands of confused, scared, excited and desperate people poured into the streets to become a part of the event, which was supposed to change their destiny.
Awards: Official Selection (Venice & Toronto)
Source: Atoms & Void

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

One of the world’s foremost screen chroniclers of Soviet history, Sergei Loznitsa has been one of the most important discoveries for me since last year. 

Having been intrigued by Soviet history ever since I developed an interest in the Cold War after being introduced by a very good friend to the strategy game, ‘Twilight Struggle’, I’ve managed to survey a few of Loznitsa’s works so far, including Blockade (2006), Donbass (2018), The Trial (2018), and what I think is his masterpiece, State Funeral (2019). 

Here in The Event, we are transported back in time to the final moments before the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Together with tens of thousands of Russians who filled the streets on those few fateful days in August 1991, the camera crew captured anxious faces and the nervous energy in the air in Leningrad.  One could only imagine similar scenarios in countless other cities in Russia. 

“Our great country is in mortal danger.”

We feel the momentous occasion as the political fate of Russia hung in the balance after communist hardliners staged what would become a failed coup d’état to revive the Soviet Union. 

As we see some citizens gear up to defend their city from any military attack should the country fall into the wrong hands again, we begin to understand the thin line between peace and aggression, and hope and despair. 

One might find the title to be a misnomer—nothing much really happens during the course of the film; well, have it any other way, and the world might have been so much different today.  Putin makes a quick ‘cameo’ if your eyes are sharp enough.   

Grade: B+



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