Goodbye Boys

[До свидания, мальчики]

(1966) USSR

Directed by Mikhail Kalik

Written by Boris Balter and Mikhail Kalik. Cinematography by Levan Paatashvili. Music by Mikael Tariverdiev. With Yevgeni Steblov, Mikhail Kononov, Nikolai Dostal, Natalia Bogoenove, Victoria Fedorova, Angelina Stepanova.

In Russian with English subtitles

By situating the film simultaneously in the pre and postwar years, the director creates a sense of doom. This might otherwise have been a lighthearted film about three young friends, two Russian and one Jewish, who prepare to depart to military-officer training institutes. Enticed by the complimentary and inspiring words of the party, which insists that specifically they are necessary in the fight for democracy and a Communist future, the boys' revel in proud anticipation. Conversely, their parents offer the voice of adult reason: if they go, they may never come back. The entire film—itself an extended flashback—is constructed on such oppositions.
Set in a small southern city located on the sea, the opposition between developed (artificial) and natural landscapes parallels the boys' distinct personalities: in town they desperately attempt to publicly exert their not-yet-achieved manliness by smoking their first cigarettes, drinking with older men, and receiving a professional shave. But in the water, their lanky bodies and shrill laughter reveal their genuine childlike natures. Unsurprisingly then, the beach—the buffer zone between two extremes—is the locale of their confrontations with new and often contradictory emotions. Visually, images of innocent youth are juxtaposed with documentary news-reels of the war as well as with verbal text inter-titles reminiscent of silent films that are spliced into the film in order to clearly articulate the boys' ill fated futures.

Born in 1927, Mikhail (Moisei) Kalik is without doubt the single most "unrehabilitated" Soviet director. Unlike films by the two other great auteur filmmakers of the late Soviet period (Andrei Tarkovskii and Sergei Paradzhanov), Kalik's films have not returned to Russian screens and still have not been reintegrated into the history of Russo-Soviet cinema. In 1951 Kalik was arrested while attending classes at the State Institute for Cinematography, and was condemned to death for Zionist activities and for plotting to assassinate Stalin. Like tens of thousands of other Soviet citizens, he was released from the gulag after the death of Stalin in 1953 and was "rehabilitated" in 1956 as part of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization campaign.
After his emigration to Israel in 1971, Kalik once again became a "non-person." All references to him as a director were strictly prohibited and his films entirely disappeared from the few film theaters where they had ever been shown.

Selected Director Filmography:
1958Our Father's Youth
1961Man Follows the Sun
1964Goodbye, Boys
1968To Love
1991And the Wind Returneth