Director: George Mendeluk
Genre: Drama / War / Romance
Bitter Harvest is a true event that certainly needs to be told. It’s the story of one of the world’s best kept secrets that concerns the famine genocide of the Ukrainian farmers and workers by the despot Joseph Stalin between 1932-1934.
This was known as the Holodomor. Stalin wanted to create a stronger Soviet Union following the death of Lenin and decreed that the Ukraine people give up the majority of their crops and livestock for the good of the Russian Government. And then finally took everything they owned.
The villages would be visited by armed forces to make certain all complied with these orders from the state. Those who protest are rounded up and shot. Their bodies dumped in mass graves.
This film unfolds the horrific story of the extermination of between 7 to 10 Million innocent people.
But the film is also a fictional love story concentrating on Yuri (Max Irons) and Natalka (Samantha Barks). We first meet this pair when they are children in 1917 and it’s obvious then that they have feelings for each other as they frolic and dance in the village harvest.
Fast forward to 15 years later when Stalin’s armies visit the Ukrainian’s farms and threaten the inhabitants to hand over their goods. But there is still a band of rebel Cossacks led by the legendary warrior Ivan (Terence Stamp) and Yuri’s Father Yaroslav (Barry Pepper). However, their swords are no match for machine guns.
Yuri and Natalka declare their love for each other but in these turbulent times it is agreed that Yuri and his childhood friends should leave for Kiev until things improve.
Alas, all is not well in the big city and Yuri is thrown in prison and vows to escape the firing squad and get back to his beloved Natalka.
This all sounds very watchable and writing a review is quite difficult due to the harrowing atrocities suffered by this country. But I am afraid that the acting is very corny and probably not suited to the big screen as this production comes over as more of a TV series.
The saving grace in the acting stakes is the stalwart Terence Stamp and to be fair Max Irons (son of Jeremy) portrayal of Yuri gets better as his character suffers at the hands of the Russians.
But I did leave the screening being extremely well informed and surprised (if I can say that?) by the revelation that this terrible war crime event in history did not come to light until 1991.
It does make you think.
But as an hour and three quarter cinema movie, it was just OK