Goodbye, Boys! is the coming-of-age tale of three teenagers graduating from a Communist school during World War II. It’s summer, and their main goals are swimming in the Black Sea and wooing the girl all three of them love. However, they are asked to become officers in the military, and slowly their worlds begin changing forever. Their parents oppose them, they begin fearing losing each other and their families, and the military tricks and maneuvers them into joining the army instead of the navy.
This movie, while dealing with subjects which are not understood by many, is definitely one of the best ones that I have seen. The plot centers around a group of 3 boys (2 Russian, one Jew) living in a small town on the sea-coast in Russia at the start of WWII. At first, we see the everyday lives of these boys during a lazy summer vacation. They swim, go to the beach, spend time with their girls and have fun. However, with the undercurrent of war approaching, they are drawn into a horrible web of lies that was only too common in Russia and Germany during the war. The boys, commissioned as the 3 best Komsomol members (a type of youth-organization in Communist countries), are offered a much sought-after position in a military academy for 3 years. While they are being offered this, any Russian (or anyone having lived in East Eur.) knows that behind this ‘offer’ is the cold truth that they have no right to refuse, or be condemned as not nationalist enough and an enemy of the state. The small, quiet town is not yet involved in the war, and the boys have no idea what they are up against (or of anything that is going on in Europe at the time). Their parents start refusing, because they know all too well what this ‘academy’ will lead to. However, the enthusiastic young men (they go through a series of hilarious sequences where they try to prove their manliness , ie shaving, smoking pitiful rolled-up cigarettes and having a first taste of wine) are optimistic and eager to go off to learn. The only problem, especially with the main character, Volodya, is that he will miss his girlfriend (and presumably his mother). To make things short, they go off to the ‘academy’ – and what is implied but never stated – are immediately sent off to the front. Young, naive 17 year old boys with no experience are sent to fight in a war they did not know existed or started. In what is a very interesting technique, we are given glimpses of a different world – Nazi rallies, bombed cities, a continent already in the throes of war – throughout the film, and only towards the end do we figure out why this is so. This is their fate, and no matter how sad, devastating this is – it is the truth. I know that many boys were sent off with their fathers to fight in the war – did they know what they were up against? Yet this movie, with its beautiful photography, minimal dialogue, with a setting in a town cut off from everything – paints such a sad picture of this truth that I guarantee it will make you think for a long time. Volodya is the only one who survives this war (as he tells us); his two best friends die, he never sees his mother or girlfriend again. They most probably died saving their country. The IMDb plot summary for this movie is a bit inaccurate, since it is hard for a non-Russian (who hasn’t lived through what went on) to understand the movie’s real message – it is not a coming of age story at all, it is the story of a fated generation growing up amongst communism. Please, anyone, if you have the chance to see this masterpiece, do it. If you see beyond the obvious on screen and pay attention to the IMPLIED events, I guarantee you will leave the movie theatre in tears, in tears about the truth.
Director: Mikhail Kalik
Writers: Boris Balter (novel), Boris Balter (screenplay)
Stars: Natalya Bogunova, Evgeniy Steblov, Anna Rodionova
Country: Soviet Union
Release Date: 3 January 1966 (Soviet Union)
Also Known As: Goodbye, Boys
Format : AVI
Format/Info : Audio Video Interleave
File size : 1.08 GiB
Duration : 1 h 17 min
Overall bit rate : 1 989 kb/s