Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
The book this film was based on was banned in the U.S.S.R. for several decades, and its author Boris Pilnyak "disappeared." This alone makes this film an important statement. The book was saved from oblivion during the Gorbachev era. The book and film together represent yet another stage in the ongoing reappraisal of Stalin's legacy. Mikhail Frunze was an important military figure during the Russian Civil War. He was appointed a minister of defense after the removal of Trotsky, because Stalin thought that Frunze would be loyal to him. Frunze failed to live up to Stalin's expectations and died suddenly -- or so everyone was told. The story is set in 1925 and concerns the sudden "resignation" due to sickness (poisoning) of Mikhail Frunze (Vladimir Steklov), whose appointment as U.S.S.R. defense minister happened when Stalin was taking the reins of power into his hands and was implementing his lifelong practice of killing or imprisoning anyone he felt threatened by. As he dies, the popular veteran reflects on the consequences of his excessive loyalty to Stalin (Viktor Proskurin).