Byl mesyats may (It Was the Month of May). 1970. USSR. Directed by Marlen Khutsiev. Screenplay by Grigory Baklanov. With Aleksandr Azhilovsky, Pyotr Todorovskiy, Sergey Shakurov. In Russian; English subtitles. 115 min.
In the days following the collapse of the Third Reich, a group of Red Army soldiers occupying a small German village makes a shattering discovery. Powerfully moving and unjustly forgotten, It Was the Month of May is Khutsiev’s profound reflection on heroism and barbarism during the Great Patriotic War, crystalizing the moment when the world could no longer claim itself ignorant of crimes against humanity. Made for Soviet television during the Brezhnev years, when the USSR achieved a tentative if anxious rapprochement with West Germany, the film offers an unusually nuanced portrayal of Nazism among “ordinary” German folk. By incorporating wartime footage into his fictional narrative, Khutsiev provokes uncomfortable truths about historical amnesia and collective guilt.