Pin It
This Ain't California

Top ten Soviet rebellion films

Stasi skate doc This Ain't California is just the tip of the iceberg for Soviet-set cinema

Cinema has always been ripe turf for ideological persuasion and no-one mastered it better than Russia, whose 1925 Battleship Potemkin in which sailors mutiny over rotten meat is the quintessential pro-Communist propaganda masterpiece. Fast-forward past the Revolution and filmmakers from Central and Eastern Europe have often turned to movies to show the downside of Soviet rule. Out in UK cinemas next week is Marten Persiel's This Ain't California, an engrossing and haunting German doc-style portrait of ill-fated rebel Denis "Panik" Paraceck, who became a leading light of East Berlin's burgeoning skater scene in the 80s under the disapproving eye of the Stasi secret police. To mark the release, here’s a crop of the best anti-authority flicks set in Soviet times.

The Woodcutter (1985)

This exhilaratingly bizarre, blackly humorous short is by Russian director Yevgeny Yufit, who founded Necrorealism in '80s St Petersburg, radically embracing death and slapstick idiocy with zombie-like figures in mass brawls and suicides to protest against the faux glowing heroism of Socialist realism.

Stalker (1979)

This haunting, mystical Soviet-era sci-fi from Russian maestro Andrei Tarkovsky - who eventually defected - foreshadows Chernobyl in its depiction of a quest into a miltiary-guarded Zone not subject to the laws of physics to find a room said to grant innermost wishes.

The Lives Of Others (2006)

German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's taut suspense drama of life in a 1984 East Berlin of dour greens and greys under claustrophobic state surveillance showed what drives citizens to become informers, or to dissent.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

A key film of the Romanian New Wave, winning a Palme d'Or at Cannes, Cristian Mungiu's gripping drama tells of a university student trying to obtain an illegal abortion, and meticulously recreates 1987 Communist-era Bucharest.

The Architects (1990)

Peter Kahane's East German drama depicts the frustrations of an idealistic architect enlisted to design a cultural centre for a satellite town who tries to rebel against the authorities' dull lack of vision.

Daisies (1966)

Banned for being "wanton" when it came out in suffocatingly bureaucratic Czechoslovakia, Vera Chytilova's radically psychedelic riot sees two girls wreak playfully destructive havoc - playing pranks on older men, getting drunk, and demolishing a banquet meant for Communist leaders.

Taxidermia (2006)

Gyorgy Palfi's epic, grotesquely comic body horror shows Hungary in three phases. In the '60s Communist-era section, a star in competitive speed-eating born of a swine-like mother hones his methods to face off at a gluttonous Soviet contest, decimating the glamour of patriotism.

A Short Film About Killing (1988)

Krzysztof Kieslowski's intensely raw depiction of a 21-year-old drifter sentenced to death for killing a taxi-driver offers a gloomy vision of Communist-era Warsaw, and contributed to a heated debate over capital punishment.

Electro Moscow (2013)

A documentary from Elena Tikhonova and Dominik Spritzendorfer charting the Russians who spearheaded underground invention outside rigidly controlled Soviet electronic development, from Léon Theremin - who came up with the first mass-produced electronic musical instrument - to the circuit-benders of today.