The scene of the classroom makes for great drama, which is why so many memorable films have a school setting for their backdrop.
One of the most interesting of this genre, and likely one that is the least familiar to American audiences, is the 1968 Soviet production of We’ll Live Till Monday, directed by Stanislav Rostotsky (1922-2001). It won the Golden Prize in the 6th Moscow International Film Festival in 1969 and a USSR State Prize in 1970.
When the film opens, two characters present us with a study in contrasts. One is a veteran educator, now a shadow of his former self. He appears to have lost the spark in his heart and the twinkle in his eye that had made him a beloved figure among both students and colleagues. The other is his young protégée, who is seen taking her first turn at the front of the classroom, attempting to negotiate the group dynamics that make such a profession so challenging.
We’ll Live Till Monday burrows deep into the various facets of the school-as-workplace. The morale of the educators, the generation gap, the interaction with parents, and the relationship between teachers and administrators are all explored.
One of the best moments in this film (which is marvelously shot in black and white) occurs when the school principal is just about to exit the office but gets waylaid by the angst-ridden protagonist. Realizing there is no escape from the complaints of agonizing ennui that plagues the teacher, the principal throws down his hat and coat, and invites his comrade to wax nostalgic about the unpleasant memories of a derailed romance that have sunk the veteran educator into his funk. The teacher at last tries the principal’s patience when he requests a leave. The exasperated principal tries to restore a sense of duty to his old colleague and barks in reply, “Take your leave! Go nurse your honor while we stay here and build!”
Journalist and playwright Mike Davidow was one of the great commentators on the Soviet experiment. For years he chronicled his observations of Soviet society in the pages of the People’s World and its predecessors. Mike saw We’ll Live Till Monday on its original release in the USSR and had this to say: “It is an honest portrayal that also deals frankly with the complex human problems that are involved in molding the communist man and woman. Its artistic strength lies in its profound, probing integrity.” No one could have said it better.