The Ascent (1977)

Boris Plotnikov

In that long ascent to the gallows, would we have the courage to stay true to our ideals, or would they evaporate under the demands of self-preservation? Rybak’s rationalization would, I think, ring true in that moment—what use am I dead? If I stay alive I’ll have some chance to continue to fight for what I believe in! But Shepitko illustrates persuasively that choosing to save your own skin is, sadly, just very good evidence that you’re the kind of person who will fast forget the ideals of your previous life now that it’s uncomfortable to maintain them.

What, then, of the Sotnikovs among us? Is there any lasting value to preserving your dignity in the face of evil? Perhaps it is their preservation and retelling that such acts, absurd as they are in the moment, gain value and resonance. When our time is up, to be remembered well is all any of us can ask for.

Don’t crawl in shit. You’ll never wash it off.


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