Watch Commissar

  • 1967
  • 1 hr 50 min
  • 7.5  (1,666)

Commissar is a poignant and thought-provoking drama set during the Russian Revolution of 1918. The story follows Klavdia Vavilova (Nonna Mordyukova), a devoted but headstrong Bolshevik commissar who is sent to lead a Red Army regiment in a remote Ukrainian village. Klavdia is heavily pregnant, but she refuses to return to safety and stays with the regiment despite the risks.

As Klavdia becomes more and more involved with the local population, she comes to question her own beliefs and the harshness of the new regime. She develops a close relationship with the family of a Ukrainian Jewish soapmaker, Persikov (Rolan Bykov), who takes her and her soldiers in after they are forced to leave their original quarters. Persikov's wife, Maria (Raisa Nedashkovskaya), has just given birth to her twelfth child and is initially suspicious of Klavdia's intentions. However, as they spend more time together, the two women form a bond born of mutual respect and shared feminine experiences.

Klavdia's pregnancy also becomes a focal point of the story. Her fellow soldiers treat her with a mixture of awe and fear, and she herself is conflicted about her role as both a commissar and a mother. The tension is heightened when Persikov's teenage son, Fedya (Vasiliy Shukshin), begins to show a romantic interest in Klavdia. Fedya sees Klavdia as a mother figure, but Klavdia becomes increasingly uncomfortable with his attentions.

Commissar was directed by Alexander Askoldov and based on a short story by Vasily Grossman. The film is notable for its use of black and white cinematography, which conveys a sense of starkness and severity. It also features powerful performances by the three lead actors, who imbue their characters with depth and nuance.

One of the main themes of Commissar is the clash between ideology and humanity. Klavdia initially sees her role as a commissar as one of ruthless discipline and indoctrination. She is quick to punish any perceived deviation from the party line, even when it is perpetrated by innocent villagers. However, her experiences in the Ukrainian village force her to confront the human consequences of her actions. She witnesses the suffering of the local population, both at the hands of the White Army and the Reds. She also becomes intimately acquainted with the joys and pains of motherhood, which add a visceral dimension to her understanding of the world.

Another theme that runs throughout Commissar is the nature of identity. Klavdia and Maria come from very different backgrounds and have very different beliefs, but they are united by their shared experiences as women and mothers. Similarly, Persikov and his sons are Jewish, and their identity plays a significant role in the story. They are mistrusted by both the Whites and the Reds and are subjected to anti-Semitic slurs and violence. However, their Jewishness also gives them a sense of solidarity and community that provides a respite from the chaos and bloodshed of the civil war.

Commissar was a controversial film upon its release, and it was promptly banned by Soviet authorities for its perceived negativity towards the communist regime. It was not released until 1987, after glasnost had loosened restrictions on artistic expression. However, its power and relevance have not diminished over the years. It stands as a haunting reminder of the human cost of violent upheaval and ideological dogmatism.

Commissar is a 1967 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 50 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.5.

Where to Watch Commissar
Commissar is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent Commissar for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 50 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.5  (1,666)