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Film and novel set in Russia (“There are no murders in Paradise”)

25th April 2015


Child 44 – The Film

IMG_0605I saw this film having first read the book. It certainly helped. The opening story is atmospheric, but verging on the dark and confusing. Leo flees from his Children’s Home and leaves that period of his history behind. He is soon to be seen triumphant in military victory, raising the Russian flag over the Reichstag, Berlin in ’45 and goes on to settle into his life in the MGB, the secret police.

Fast forward to 1953 and his friend and comrade loses his son – the authorities declare it an unfortunate accident on the train tracks (the official line after all is: “there are no murders in paradise”), but there is a growing sense that this was, in fact, an extremely brutal child murder.  Leo’s wife Raisa is fingered as being an informer, but Leo will not give her up. Both are consequently sent into exile in a grim provincial outpost. It becomes clear that there is indeed a serial killer on the loose and Leo is determined to find the perpetrator. Thus ensue many scenes of a steam train ploughing back and forth to Moscow, as actor Tom Hardy (Leo) growls away in his Russian accent – as do most of the cast except Charles Dance – deftly leaping his way on and off trains, threading his way through foreboding woods and generally being manly.

It is a dark film, chock full of props to create a feel of the era (where did they find all those vintage cars?). I found myself longing for a less cluttered visual – indeed, less would have been more. There is a lot of brutal fighting, stabbing and shooting, lots of gloomy footage (after all these were gloomy and rather monochrome times), and the final staged fight is a set piece of wrestling in slippery and slurping mud, which felt rather like another choreographed scene. All in all, about 1/2 hour too long, the film nevertheless does transport you to the Stalinist era that seems so soulless and cruel. The film has been banned in Russia for being too “Mordor” so I guess it got the ‘feel’ about right.

The Guardian succinctly has the last word: “As for the debacle over the Slavic-slathered English spoken by the entire cast, it further highlights the uncertainty about whether Child 44 was intended for the multiplex or the arthouse”. Very true.

The book, in contrast, is an excellent read. Over to Emma….

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – The Book

This is an exciting, fascinating and thought provoking read.

Set in 1953 (the year of Stalin’s death) the book has two themes: firstly the investigation of a crime, and secondly what life was like under Stalin for ordinary people through to the secret police. It is set in Moscow, villages and small towns throughout Stalin’s Russia.

For me the horror and hardship of living under this terrifying regime was the main focus of the first half of the book (I kept stopping to think about what I was reading, and talking to others about it), and then in the second half the crime solving took over as I raced to the end.

From the point of view of a tourist (or anyone else!) I think this is an essential read. When visiting Russia if you meet (or see) anyone over the age of 60 you will look at them with eyes of wonder, as you realise that they lived through this time. It also gives a different perspective on their lives today compared to those of us brought up in the UK (or a country with similar politics).

The writing style is easy to read, the characters are easy to follow (the names are not too difficult). At the end of the book are some “Stalinist Statistics” which are interesting/shocking.

I think this is one of the best books I have read for a long time; not only for the reading of it, but also for the conversations I have had with others about it.

And the great news is that there are two follow on books!

Emma for the TripFiction Team

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  1. User: aditi3991

    Posted on: 28/04/2015 at 11:45 am

    Need to watch and read Child 44


  2. User: tripfiction

    Posted on: 25/04/2015 at 10:39 am

    Would be really interested to hear your view on the film!! I hope you enjoy it!


  3. User: dawn obrien

    Posted on: 25/04/2015 at 10:25 am

    I loved the book too, I found the follow up book not as good tho, going to the cinema tonight to see the film


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