The remarkable faces of real peasant women fill the screen in “Love and Hate,” the first feature of director Albert Gendelstein, who made only one more fiction film (“Lermontov,” 1940) before accusations of formalism and ideological deviation forced him into documentaries. “Love and Hate” was released in few prints and quickly forgotten, apparently because the screenplay was considered not heroic enough.
The unusual thing about the picture is its subject — a group of Ukrainian women from a mining town whose husbands have left to fight the White Russian army in 1919. Without their menfolk, they’re forced to work in the mine under the supervision of cruel enemy soldiers. When the soldiers are forced to retreat and decide to blow up the mine, the women organize a guerrilla action to stop them. Pic’s revolutionary fervor is catching, and the women’s rough-hewn faces seem right out of Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters,” with the exception of silent film star Emma Tsesarskaya, who plays their patriotic leader.