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Laramie Movie Scope: Cargo 200 (Gruz 200)

A horror show of society in chaos

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 7, 2009 -- “Cargo 200” is a horror show of murder, mayhem, rape, degradation, cowardice, corruption and injustice in Soviet society nearing collapse. The year is 1984, a year with Orwellian significance. It is near the end of the Soviet Union and the war in Afghanistan is taking its toll on everyone.

A young girl, Angelika (played by Agniya Kuznetsova) goes to a dance and then gets into a car with her friend Liza's fiancé, Valera (Leonid Bichevin) and they go to a remote house that sells bootleg liquor, including pure grain alcohol. Valera is a bootlegger himself, and he knows these people, including the bootlegger Alexi (Aleksei Serebryakov) his wife, Tonya (Natalya Akimova), their hired man Sunka (Mikhail Skryabin). Valera soon passes out from drinking pure alcohol, leaving Angelika by herself. There is yet another stranger hanging around the house, a gaunt, evil looking character named Zhurov (Aleksei Poluyan). After Alexi passes out, Zhurov kills Sunka and kidnaps Angelika, taking her to his mother's house where she is held as a prisoner. Zhurov, however, calls her his wife. He does unspeakable things to her.

Zhurov, who is a police captain, pins Sunka's murder on Alexi, who evidently owes Zhurov a favor from his prison days. Alexi agrees to remain silent, but Zhurov has him murdered anyway. He also arranges another murder in his mother's house. Zhurov's mother appears to be as crazy as Zhurov himself. She doesn't seem to notice the dead bodies piling up in her house, but does notice an increase in flies. In a particularly cruel twist, Zhurov arranges for the body of Angelika's fiancé to be shipped to him. He was Sergeant Gorbunov, a soldier killed in Afghanistan. He throws the body on top of Angelika in bed. She wakes up screaming when she sees the body. She has descended into a hell the likes of which even Kafka never imagined.

Tonya has figured out that Zhurov was behind the murder of her husband and Sunka. She finally gets fed up and goes to pay a visit on Zhurov. She seems to be the only person in the film who is interested in justice. Valera wakes up and goes on his way, unconcerned with whatever happened to Angelika. Even though Angelika is the daughter of a powerful Communist official, the authorities never catch up with Valera, but they do abuse a number of people unrelated to the crimes. Another character who is tangentially related to these events, Artem (Leonid Gromov) seems to know what is going on, but decides not to intervene because he might lose his job as a “Professor of Scientific Atheism” at Leningrad University. Artem had stopped at the same house where Angelica was abducted, just before she and Valera showed up, and Valera is the fiancé of Artem's niece, Liza. Artem argued about atheism with Alexi (who believes in God) while Sunka fixed his car, which had broken down nearby. Both Artem and Alexi get very drunk during the argument.

According to the DVD this story, which seems very improbable, is based on true events. If true, it represents one of the most shocking and compelling arguments against atheistic Communism I've ever seen. This is highlighted by Artem seeking God at the end of the film. This is one of darkest films I have ever seen. It depicts a descent into Kafakaesque madness that puts any horror film to shame. The images of sexual abuse, murder and corruption are incredibly vile. This is not a movie for those with weak stomachs, but it is haunting if you can stomach the disgusting acts of sexual abuse and murder. The DVD I watched exibited jerky movements when the camera panned horizontally or when objects such as cars moved horizontally across the screen. I've seen similar problems when PAL formated videos are converted to NTSC without adequate compensation being made for the different frame rates between the two formats. This film rates a B. Oh, yeah, “Cargo 200” is the military's code name for flights with bodies of soldiers being flown back to the USSR from the Afghan war. For more information on this film check out the the Disinformation Company's web site.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)