study goes no further the June 1986. Six months after Bonner's
return to Gorky came the dramatic telephone call from Gorbachev
to Sakharov which prepared for the exiled couple's return to
Moscow. When western correspondents met Sakharov at last back
in his old haunts, they saw that he had aged terribly through
his ordeals in Gorky. He seemed to be a sick man, his voice
faltering. But it is, perhaps, thanks to his sufferings that
many scores, even hundreds, were released in the months ahead
from their confinement. His sufferings and those of his wife
may have been used by the KGB propaganda machine to dramatize
the new policy of openness, but in the post-Gorky world of Soviet
politics, who can say where this policy will lead?
final observation should be made. Photographs are ambiguous
documents. We can't always be sure what detail will catch the
viewer's eye to frustrate the photographer's intentions. With
moving images, the ambiguity is more teasing because of the
fleeting time the image is before us on the screen.
you can't view and review three hours worth of material without
becoming impressed by the central figures, without entering
into a kind of internal dialogue with their personalities. And
so from these tapes, persistent viewers will soon become closely
acquainted with Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner. They will
come to recognize at once Sakharov's figure, his slight stoop,
the rounded dome of his head; and they will recognize, too,
without having to be told, the sweetness of his character, his
consideration for others, his devotion to his wife. What Solzhenitsyn
called his "serene trustworthiness that comes from his own purity."
In one shot, taken for other reasons by the KGB, we can't help
being struck by the way Sakharov rises and thanks the young
nurse who has been attending them. In other shots, again intended
by the KGB to tell a different story, we are impresses by the
patient courtesy he extends to people who accost him on the
street corners, he himself being unaware, of course, of their
real purpose in doing so.
these small details scattered throughout the tapes a much truer
image emerges that the KGB film makers could have believed was
possible, an image of nobility, serenity, courage and determination.
This image finds its counterpart in that of his wife. Elena
Bonner also has her moments in the tapes which tell us more
about her than could ever a KGB narrator: the slow way she moves
because of her heart, the way she uses her hands, carries her
head, her laughter, the tone of her voice, above all the way
she smokes - alas, much to the chagrin of her American doctors.
Thanks to the KGB, we now possess these visual records of a
very remarkable couple, records which will long outlive the
shoddy purposes to which the KGB put them.