“In August of ‘44…” / “Moment of Truth” (USSR, 1975): a film that will never be seen by the audience

In August ‘44… / Moment of truth. USSR, 1975. Directed by Vytautas Žalakevičius. Scriptwriter Vladimir Bogomolov (screen version of his novel). Actors: Sergey Shakurov, Anatoly Azo, Alexander Ivanov, Bronius Babkauskas, Borislav Brondukov, Mikhail Volontir, and others.

On October 21, 1975 the famous Lithuanian actor Bronius Babkauskas (1921–1975) committed suicide. The actor Donatas Banionis (1924–2014) remembered it: “Our star was Babkauskas, a wonderful artist. His fate was tragic: while fishing, he broke his spine and then started to forget everything, could not find his way home. He was getting worse and worse, he ended up hanging himself…” (Donatas Banionis: “There was pity for his wife at first” // Caravan of stories. 2012. 7. https://7days.ru/caravan/2012/7/donatas-banionis-k-zhene-sperva-byla-zhalost/5.htm#ixzz6FdtLF3W7).

The death of Bronius Babkauskas was one of the reasons to stop the almost complete filming of Vladimir Bogomolov’s novel “In August of the 44th…” / “The Moment of Truth”…

And the reasons for this were many: a quarrel between the director V.Žalakevičius (1930–1996) and the writer and screenwriter V.Bogomolov (1926–2003), who did not share the harsh stylistics and rigidity of the director’s interpretation. The unwillingness of the filmmakers to get a gloomy version of one of the previous films Žalakevičius — “No one wanted to die”. Besides, not so long ago A. German’s film “Check on the Roads” was put on the shelf, also solved in extremely realistic manner for those years …

The role of Captain Alekhine in the Žalakevičius’ film played an outstanding actor Sergei Shakurov, and Senior Lieutenant Tamantsev — talented, but, alas, has passed away Anatoly Azo (1934–2007). And Lieutenant Blinov was played by Alexander Ivanov, a student of VGIK at that time.

Here is how he recalled the film Sergei Shakurov: “I played Alekhine. This role I did not have at all. And no one saw her later. Žalakevičius very tough man and he and the author had a quarrel, and the picture eventually closed. … And it was lying there for a long time, lying there and in the end it was washed away, because nobody was engaged in this fate. And they could have restored it…” (http://www.sergey-shakurov.ru/KINO/kino_avgust44.html).

It is paradoxical that Žalakevičius’ film shared the fate of the first version of the film “Stalker”. The materials of “Moment of Truth” were not for some reason deposited with the Gosfilmofond, they were simply destroyed…

Now it is hard to say what the result of the film by V. Žalakevičius would be. But it seems that with such a dramatic basis, direction and cast it could have been one of the best and most truthful war films…

Alexander Fedorov, 2020

Film Critic and Film Historian