Since I was a child I loved movies. Some of them I’ve even watched countless times, it was like if every time I was pressing play something new inside the movie was being revealed to me.
When we’re young we easily are drawn to action movies or funny ones, later on questions begin to clutter our teenage life and, looking for answers we start to watch movies that wander into more complex themes.
Something, however always bugged me about the “serious movies” set in the 20th century: there are many movies loosely set in the period around the Second World War that touched the subject of the Nazi Lager camps, yet I have no memory of any movie from Hollywood that talked about Communist Gulags.
Before you mentally RSVP to this movie relegating it to the rainiest and coldest winter Sunday, please consider that this is a true story very elegantly captured on film by Peter Weir.
The Way Back comes from the book called The Long Walk by Slavimir Rawicz, it is the story of a typical group of prisoners in a Gulag, they managed to escape one of the most secure and cruel places on Earth, one of the little forgotten “islands” composing the infamous Archipelago Gulag1, a huge systematic human annihilation system developed at the beginning of the Soviet Union in 1918. It went on officially till 1956 but in reality was left in place feeding on human life till the very end of the Soviet Union with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. By 1975, according to Solzhenitsyn, the Gulag system had seen at least 50 millions entering one gulag or another, going out was …a different story.
The reason why I said “typical” is that at first, it seems an odd collection of people, but we need to remember that forced accusations and public delations had been normal procedure for so many years in the Soviet Union; the result was that the majority of people in the Gulags had never committed any crime.
Hollywood is weird sometimes. 50 million people suffered in those hellish places, and still we had to wait for an eccentric and stubborn Aussie director, almost 100 years after the beginning of this horror to have a big production that started to tell us just one of these stories.
This movie has a good cast, all actors are very committed and surely the young Saoirse plays wonderfully her role. When I saw it at the cinema there was not the typical end of the movie scrum, everybody stood silently there for half a minute, it was almost surreal, we all needed a moment to absorb all that.
It is indeed hard to talk about this movie without giving out too much of the story, but rest assured, this is a story about what is good and worth living for that dwells in the human heart, what keeps us alive and chasing our freedom at every cost. This is a group of people like me and you that had the determination to escape their grim destiny and walk towards an improbable salvation, they walked for 4000 miles. If you think The Shawshank Redemption was touching you must watch this one.
1. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gulag_Archipelago
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