The Last Happy Day

Watch The Last Happy Day

  • NR
  • 2009
  • 37 min
  • 0.0  (10)

The Last Happy Day is a 2009 documentary film that explores the life of Dr. Solomon Mikhoels, a celebrated Soviet Jewish actor and director, and his strange and tragic death in 1948. The film is directed and written by Lynne Sachs, and it features archive footage, interviews, reenactments, and animations. The film opens with a quote from Mikhoels, "The last happy day is never the last day", and then we are introduced to the protagonist, his family, and his achievements. Mikhoels was born in 1890 in Dvinsk, now Daugavpils, Latvia, and he was a part of the Jewish cultural renaissance in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s. He was the founder and artistic director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater, which thrived under Stalin's patronage.

Mikhoels was a charismatic and talented actor, and he played leading roles in many productions, including plays by Sholem Aleichem and Mendele Mocher Sforim. He was also a recognized film star, appearing in several movies, including "The Return of Nathan Becker" and "Seekers of Happiness". During World War II, Mikhoels became a spokesman for the Soviet government's public relations campaign, speaking to Soviet troops and boosting morale.

However, as the war ended and the Soviet Union shifted its policy towards Jews and Israel, Mikhoels' safety and status became uncertain. Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign intensified, and many Jewish artists and intellectuals were persecuted, arrested, or killed. Mikhoels himself was put under surveillance and pressure, but he refused to betray his friends and colleagues.

On January 13, 1948, Mikhoels was killed in a staged car accident near Minsk, Belarus, by a group of NKVD (secret police) agents, who were following Stalin's orders. Mikhoels' body was officially identified as a victim of reckless driving, but his death became a national scandal and a symbol of Stalin's tyranny. His funeral in Moscow was attended by thousands of mourners, and his legacy as a cultural leader and a martyr was secured.

The Last Happy Day delves into this tragic story through a personal and experimental approach. The film is not a traditional biopic, but rather a poetic essay on memory, identity, and history. Sachs mixes different sources and styles to create a collage of impressions and emotions, as if to capture the elusive spirit of Mikhoels and his times.

The film features interviews with Mikhoels' daughter and granddaughter, who share their memories and insights. They describe Mikhoels as a loving, humorous, and devoted father, who cared deeply about his family, his art, and his people. They also talk about their own struggles with identity, being both Jewish and Soviet-born, and the impact of Mikhoels' death on their lives.

The Last Happy Day also includes reenactments of key events in Mikhoels' life, such as his meetings with Stalin and other officials, his performances onstage and onscreen, and his last moments in the car. These scenes are shot in black and white, with melancholic music and voiceover, creating a dreamlike and eerie atmosphere.

Finally, the film uses animations to visualise Mikhoels' imagination and legacy. Sachs collaborated with filmmaker and animator Maya Erdelyi to create playful and colourful sequences that illustrate Mikhoels' thoughts and dreams. These animations are based on Mikhoels' own diaries, drawings, and speeches, and they convey his sense of humour, irony, and hope.

The Last Happy Day is a poignant and provocative film that raises important questions about art, politics, and human nature. It shows how one man's life and death can represent a larger historical and cultural context, and how memory and imagination can bridge the gap between the past and the present. It also challenges us to consider the meaning of happiness and the value of resistance, in the face of oppression and injustice.

The Last Happy Day is a 2009 documentary with a runtime of 37 minutes.

Where to Watch The Last Happy Day
The Last Happy Day is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, The Roku Channel and Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent The Last Happy Day for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
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  • Runtime
    37 min
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  • IMDB Rating
    0.0  (10)