(Proverka na dorogakh, Aleksey German, USSR 1971, 92 min., 35mm, Russian w/subtitles)
Made in 1971 and banned for fifteen years, Trial on the Road became a major discovery in the days of Perestroika. By that time, any new film by Aleksey German was considered an event, and not just a cinematic event. While never reaching the international fame of Tarkovsky and Eisenstein, German is often considered to be the greatest Russian director of all time. Trial on the Road, his first independently made film, is based on a true story of a Red Army sergeant who was captured by the Nazis, became a collaborator, and then changed sides again to join the Soviet guerillas. Banned for “deheroization” of the partisan movement,” the film is now considered a breakthrough in the depiction of war on screen. Most of German’s pictures deal with the recent past, re-created with unprecedented detail: not just in sets and costumes (he was known for working with authentic clothes and props), but also, and mainly, in faces. His office walls were covered with authentic photographs, and he was meticulously searching for actors whose features would bear comparison with documentary images. He despised the word “extras,” for every single face on the screen was of crucial importance.