The Soviet War Memorial in eastern Berlin's Treptower Park, the biggest one of its kind outside the Soviet Union, legacy of half a century of Soviet presence, is among the most impressive of the monuments commemorating the Second World War in the German capital. "Victory Day", a traditional holiday till today, was established throughout the USSR and in the former Eastern Bloc countries in order to cherish the memory of the Red Army’s heroics and the suffering of the Soviet population during the "Great Patriotic War". Since the mid-1990s and the withdrawal of the last Russian troops from reunited Germany, each year on May 9th, the date of the victory over Nazi Germany by Moscow time, the memorial, also a military cemetery where thousands of Red Army soldiers were laid to rest, becomes the setting for a vast gathering...
Opening and closing his film with a not exactly rousingly patriotic song from the “Soviet Brassens” Bulat Šalvovič Okudžava, with “Den' Pobedy”, Sergueï Loznitsa plunges us into a strange festival of reunions. Russian neo-patriots rub shoulders with diehard German Stalinists, normal civilians cross the paths of soldiers and paramilitaries… In this disconcerting community, they raise their glasses together on the mass grave, join a singalong in front of the memorial and its images engraved in stone of past battles, and dance to the beat of “Born in the USSR”. The director doesn’t merely observe the movements and actions of these devout pilgrims. From the continuity of their endless flow suggested by the intervention of the lens and the intensification of the sound, moving from outside to inside, from a noisily profane gesture to sacred silence under the dome of the memorial, he causes another continuity to emerge… the ideological continuity of a very real contemporary political power and the soft power it now uses.
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