‘The Bolsheviks are coming!’ cries Stalin or at least a look a like from central casting in this week’s new release ‘Bitter Harvest’. And he’s right because this features a right load of old bolshevicks led by Terence Stamp bald apart from a single greying pony tail sprouting from the middle of his head. Inspired by his uncles’ commitment to resisting Stalin’s oppressive and dictatorial regime is Yuri (Max Irons) as a well intentioned artist who in his efforts to join the resistance eventually finds himself separated from his true love Natalka (Samantha Barks) and eventually banged up in a prison cell awaiting execution. She on the other handing is helping the resistance by attempting to poison the film’s pantomime villain a genocidal maniac with a comedy moustache. The attempt to poison him is as odd as Yuri’s attempt to escape the prison using his artistic talents to flatter the warder and reunite with his true love so they can fight another day.
This is yet another of those ‘insured by actual event’ a usefully generic term because it’s like our Editor being inspired by the great Editors of Fleet Street when the truth is closer to being inspired by the off screen antics of Oliver Reed (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed). Led by Terence Stamp who’s clearly the name hired to sell this internationally much as Liam Neeson was in the recent ‘Operation Chromite’ he’s somewhat hammy and unfortunately both Irons and Barks as the leads are vanilla and the rest of the characters that pop up throughout the film make brief and wholly forgettable appearances before they’re either killed or surplus to requirements and just disappear. Accents are all over the place and at one point there’s a welsh accented Russian on a train and best (or worst) of all is Stalin who sounds like Matt Berry in his Steven Toast persona when he delivers lines such as ‘ Damn those Ukrianians!’ to hilarious effect They’re hardly helped by a script with stilted dialogue and unintentional innuendo the best being when Yuri asks Natalka, ‘Where would you like to paint me?’ To which he replies, ‘In the forest!’ It’s no surprise that shortly after she slaps his face.
It all come across a bit like a learners guide to the Holodomor, an horrific genocidal act by Stalin against the Ukraine from 1932 – 1933 where he effectively forced a famine upon the population leading to the deaths of almost 10 million – an astonishing statistic only recently admitted by Russia. Sincere in intent this is over wrought and overly earnest. There’s a great film to be made of this story…unfortunately this film isn’t it.
Here’s the trailer……