A Soviet Jew suffers the full wrath of the state after applying for emigration. Based on a true story. [ Farewell Moscow credits: Dir: Mauro Bolognini/ Liv Ullman, Daniel Olbrychski, Aurore Clement/ 95 min/ Drama/ Italy/ Filmed in English/ Escape from Socialism]
Back in the bad old days of the U.S.S.R., someone once joked that if the Soviet borders were ever opened, there wouldn’t even be anyone left in the country to turn the lights out. But to Soviet officials, the widespread desire to leave was no joke. It was an embarrassing problem, resolved in the same way that famines, shortages, pollution, and other by-products of socialism were resolved—through fraud.
Officially, anyone who wanted to leave could do so, and this “fact” was often reported by Moscow’s sympathizers in the West. Unofficially, however, those who applied for emigration were often harassed, forced to accept “psychiatric treatment,” fired from their jobs, etc., so that their example might discourage others from trying. Being fired from a job might not seem so terrible; but in a country where the state is a monopoly employer, it means homelessness and starvation unless one has very loyal and generous friends.
Farewell Moscow tells the story of Ida Nudel, whose emigration application in 1970 earned her just this level of persecution. Nudel, a Jew, applied for emigration after unending antireligious harassment by the government. However, she failed the absurdly complicated and intrusive exit visa process because she had been employed as an astronomer. For state security reasons, scientists were not allowed to leave the country.
But Nudel adamantly refused to give in. She repeatedly protested in public, and repeatedly applied for emigration even though she knew she would be turned down. The Soviet authorities responded by sending her first to a psychiatric ward, then to a labor camp in Siberia, and then to another prison. Throughout the ordeal, Nudel refused to suffer in silence. Her relentless protests (along with that of other refuseniks) became such a public relations nightmare for the Soviets that they eventually let her go.
Liv Ullman gives an outstanding, animated performance as Nudel, imbuing her character with the kind of incredible strength of will typical of real-life dissidents. This Italian production is generally well done and makes effective use of bleak Soviet scenery. Though dubbed, it seems to have been at least partially filmed in English.
The script is consistently sympathetic and packs a punch in the closing scene, when dissident Nudel finally comes to the attention of Western journalists. She is obviously broken by her experience, and tells how she has lost everything—love, marriage, friends, family, home, everything. Speaking directly into the camera, she makes her final plea: “But if you forget us, all this suffering is in vain.” Indeed, and that’s just another reason to see Farewell Moscow — to never forget. Also listed as Mosca Addio.