(SAKHAROV, THE KGB AND THE MASS MEDIA Cont'd)
2 and 3 - released June 28, 1985
next two videotapes appeared simultaneously in June 1985. Both address
directly the question of Sakharov's health and both are introduced
by the same female doctor, who is identified as Natalia Evdokimova.
The first film runs for 34 minutes and is nearly all in color, the
second runs for 40 minutes and is nearly all in black and white.
In the first, Evdokimova claims to have been Sakharov's doctor since
1981; in the second, she says Sakharov has been under medical observation
since 1980. Evdokimova comments on Sakharov's health in much the
same terms in each of her introductions. In the first, she explains
his presence in the hospital as a routine checkup which he undergoes
every six weeks; in the second, she makes a lengthy statement about
Sakharov's medical history, saying that he suffers from problems
of circulation to the brain and the heart, and from early signs
of Parkinson's disease - a somewhat alarming analysis which Evdokimova
implies requires these routine visits to the hospital. "At present,
Sakharov's condition is satisfactory," she says. "He is a punctual
and disciplined patient who follows his doctor's advice scrupulously."
is not clear why these two rapes were produced separately and released
together, and not combined into one. It's possible that, knowing
Sakharov was intending a further hunger strike, the KGB anticipated
he might die or suffer a more debilitating stroke as a result of
their treatment of him, and so they prepared for any eventuality
by having alternative film scenarios ready. There is only one brief
scene duplicated in them both, apart, that is, from Evdokimova's
two introductions. So we cannot know if they were made to serve
different purposes; the order in which we review them here is one
only of convenience. The order could just as well be reversed.
first, then, which is nearly all in color, opens with shots of teleprinters
typing out news releases of Efrem Yankelevich's complaint to the
United States about Sakharov's disappearance. A videographic display
identifies an Agence France Press report form Paris of May 31, 1985,
and an Associated Press report from New York of June 5, 1985. The
russian words, "Where is Sakharov?" are then superimposed as a title
following a color photograph of Sakharov. The tape, it's clear,
is going to answer this question.
a brief montage of Gorky scenes, the film cuts to Evdokimova seated
at her desk. She puts down a pen and addresses the camera; then
she leaves her chair and walks toward the camera which zooms into
a close-up of her face. She has been speaking about his health and
treatment. There's a cut to a brief scene in black and white of
Sakharov stripped to the waist being examined by a Professor Troshin,
a neuropathologist, this being part of a longer scene extracted
from the second tape. The film cuts again to numerous documents,
mostly of medical nature.
the film we cut regularly back to Evdokimova, sometimes standing
and sometimes sitting behind her desk. She is, in effect, the narrator
of the film and she takes the opportunity personally to rebut charges
of medical maltreatment made in the West, calling them "twisted
reports." These reports that Sakharov was subjected to drugs and
hunger, she says, are an insult to our human and professional dignity.
Evdokimova's wording at this point is carefully chosen. She does
not say that the reports specified that Sakharov was being treated
with mind-altering drugs, which was a widespread rumor circulating
in the press and in Moscow in the summer of 1984, nor does she refer
to a "hunger strike." Instead, she rebuts the charge that the hospital
inflicted "hunger" on Sakharov.
the documents are flashed on the screen Evdokimova tells us that
Sakharov gets free medication, that the personnel of the hospital
are friendly with him, and that as a token of his gratitude both
he and his wife sign the hospital visiting book in appreciative
elaborate introductory sequence prepares us for the main body of
the film which consist of scenes of Sakharov performing various
activities in the hospital. In the first of these, we see Sakharov
having his blood pressure measured by Evdokimova and the hidden
microphone picks up portions of their conversation. The KGB's transcript
of the tape gave this exchange as follows:
a bit low today for some reason, Andrei Dmitrievich,' she says,
'How low?' he asks. 'The top 105.' 'And the lower?' ask Sakharov.
'The lower is quite good. It is 70 or 80,' she replies."
Sakharov's heart is discussed, an electronic image of it being projected
onto the screen and Sakharov himself shown on an exercise bicycle.
At this point we become aware that the KGB filmmakers have taken
great pains to provide us with visual corroboration of the dates
on which these activities supposedly took place. A calendar is suspended
on a cabinet beside his exercise bike in such a way that it faces
the camera at the same time as the camera shows us Sakharov. A cut
gives us the date on this calendar in close-up. That is to say,
some kind of marker has circled June 5, and the calendar appears
to be of 1985.
film now deals at length with Sakharov's eating habits. Evdokimova
talks about his diet, holding up what she says are his menus, and
the camera cuts to a series of shots of Sakharov eating, propped
up on his bed, with a white sheet around his neck and a blue pillow
behind him. Above his head, another calendar is prominently displayed,
with dates in June marked as before. Every so often, the camera
will zoom in to bring these dates more obviously into view. The
noise of the camera lens as it zooms in can be heard on the sound
track, but evidently this did not arouse Sakharov's suspicions.
Evdokimova tells us about his breakfasts, lunches and suppers. We
have shots of the hospital kitchen to emphasize what she's saying.
In all, we seem to see him eating well on at least three days in
June - June 5, 6, and 7. In one shot we see him making his bed;
as he passes between us and the wall calendar, it appears that he
has moved the marker on the calendar, advancing it from June 8 to
June 9. In other shots, we see Sakharov watching television in a
lounge, reading papers and being handed mail, which includes foreign
scientific journals and news magazines. These are all carefully
photographed in close-up and graphic montage to reveal clearly their
subject matter, tittles and dates. The covers of Time and
Newsweek are of their June 3 and May 27, 1985 issues respectively.
the final scene of the film, Sakharov is once again sitting up on
his bed and this time he is being shaved by a girl. The calendar
above his head is marked at June 13. The hidden microphone records
part of his conversation which the KGB script translates thus: "'You
aren't a squeamish client ,' she says. 'Let me rub in some cream.'
She offers him aftershave, but he refuses, saying he isn't use to
it." The last words are those of the commentator: "Well, now we
have answered the questions, 'Where is Academician Sakharov, and
how is he?'"
the second medical tape, which is longer and mostly in black and
white, there is a different visual emphasis. In the first, Bonner
is not featured at all. In the second, she appears to be with Sakharov
as he receives his checkup. In many scenes, the camera focuses on
her while we hear Sakharov's voice off camera and the voices of
medical personnel. There's no suggestion in this second tape that
Sakharov has had to be hospitalized for any reason. On the contrary,
we see him in his street clothes stripping to the waist for an examination
by Evdokimova and the neuropathologist, Professor Troshin. The way
the tape is edited here strongly suggests that two hidden cameras
were in operation, unless the scenes were recorded on different
days, which does not fir with the known occasions of Bonner's appearance
at the hospital with Sakharov. Bonner can be heard discussing Sakharov's
eating habits and other personal health matters. The doctor asks
Sakharov about his appetite. Sakharov replies: "One could eat less,
but Elena Georgievna cooks very well." A date is mentioned - April
10; apparently it was important to the KGB that the date should
be placed on record. If this is April 10, 1985, then we have to
remind ourselves that six days later Sakharov began another hunger
strike, and on April 21, 1985 he was back in the hospital being
force fed. Toward the end of the film, a young nurse in a white
coat enters and sits on the couch. Sakharov reappears, dressed,
and the nurse takes a blood sample from his finger. With this, the
film somewhat abruptly ends.
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