A group of displaced persons constructs a factory town from scratch after WWII in “The Workers’ Settlement” (aka “Factory Town”). Director Vladimir Vengerov and screenwriter Vera Panova turn this unpromising premise into a thoroughly engrossing epic drama, beautifully shot and acted. It marks one of the most successful attempts to create a real-life atmosphere around a factory, an archetypal Soviet setting that has never been made more credible. Pic also touches such delicate topics as religious belief under socialism and the tragic errors of Stalinism.
What holds the attention today is the cast’s superb perfs as human beings with hopes, dreams and plenty of problems. Leonid (Oleg Borisov) has returned from the war a hero, but blind. He becomes an alcoholic and drives his wife out of the settlement, but his young son stays behind to look after him. Finally, spurred on by war buddy Grisha (Viktor Avdyushko), who comes to live in the town, he pulls himself together and gets a job.
A man cut from the heroic pioneer mold, Grisha signs on at the factory, builds a house, gets a wife and starts a family. The years pass and the factory flourishes. Then one night, the idealistic factory boss finds himself arrested by men in leather trench coats. Story rolls on until the political tables are turned once more during the liberalization of the Khrushchev years.
Isaak Svats’ epic score is fine accompaniment to d.p. Genrikh Maradzhyan’s strikingly modern B&W images. The young Aleksei German (“Twenty Days Without War,” “My Friend Ivan Lapchin”) was assistant director.