This past weekend we saw the film “The Way Back,” adapted from The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz The film has many flaws — it’s too long, it’s not big on character development, it tacks on an absurd ending, the characters’ accents are distracting — but it is worth seeing.
Early on the film shows the Siberian penal labor camp to which the central character is assigned. The film depicts the escape of a small group of prisoners from the camp and their wildly improbable walk to India and freedom.
When the film moved to the Siberian labor camp, it put me in mind of Anne Applebaum’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag: A History. The film is consistent with Applebaum’s portrayal of the Soviet prison camp system.
It turns out that Applebaum served as a consultant to director Peter Weir. In her Washington Post column on the film, Applebaum makes a point that didn’t occur to me. Applebaum points out that in one respect the film is unique and groundbreaking: “It represents Hollywood’s first attempt to portray the Soviet Gulag, in meticulously researched detail.” Applebaum’s informed judgment is that “the film is ‘true’ in every way that matters” (including the final scene). Applebaum comments: “I haven’t found any reviews, so far, that hail this as Hollywood’s first Gulag movie, perhaps because hardly anyone noticed that there weren’t any before.”
Via NRO Web briefing.
UPDATE: Applebaum believes that The Long Walk is only partly fictionalized; others have made the case that it is simply a work of fiction. Reader Flagg Taylor directs us to Radio Free Europe’s interview with Anne Applebaum about the movie.
MORE GULAG FILMS: Readers have pointed out “Gulag” (originally broadcast on HBO, 1985) and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” directed by Ronald Harwood and starring Tom Courtenay (1970).
AND TWO MORE: Readers also point out “Coming Out of the Ice” (a television movie, this one from 1982) and the German film “As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me” (2001). YouTube hosts the video of “Coming Out of the Ice” beginning here.
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