DOUBLE LIFE, A SHORT HISTORY OF SEX IN THE USSR
Director(s): Inara KOLMANE – Writer(s): Inara KOLMANE Contact Print page
Revisiting 70 years of communist power through the prism of sexuality might sound like a bit of fun. Seriously, though, this particular aspect of life in the USSR has never been the subject of Soviet historiography, although there exists a treasure trove of fresh discoveries and declassified archives; hitherto inaccessible material supported by testimonies from contributors such as Lev Shcheglov, sexologist, psychotherapist and journalist or , photographer Nicolai Bakharev who has documented the intimate life of the Soviets in the 70s and 80s...
Their stories, anecdotal in appearance but rich in teachings about Soviet life, point to the flagrant contradiction between official ideology and day-to-day reality.
The October revolution did away with the institution of marriage – a civil and no longer religious affair; divorce became legal, as did abortion. Free, subversive love liberated from the shackles of bourgeois conventions was celebrated, but these free unions came with dire consequences that have long remained secret.
In Saratov, the local authorities decreed the establishment of regular ‘houses of tolerance’ where women between the ages of 17 and 30 had to have unpaid sex with working class men (others had to pay 1000 rubles); husbands had to accept to “share” their wives for the good cause.
Rapidly, the situation spiraled out of control: syphilis spread throughout the country. In 1922, an estimated number of nine million abandoned children, the "bezprizornye", roamed the street. The parenthesis of free love would quickly come to a close.
Given the extent of the chaos, the psychologist Zalkin published in 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, what became the new twelve commandments imposed on the Soviet people. In a total U-turn by the regime, monogamy and abstinence became the new virtues of proletarian sex...
The film’s narrative draws from this double life, the inherent opposition between official ‘regime images’ that alternate with the reality supplied by a variety of testimonies. The tone of this film will be neither “learned” nor moralizing, but marked by the consubstantial irony of this story. The narrative is structured into four chapters, respecting the chronological order of history.