Konstantin Lopushansky is known best for his ability to make tangibly apocalyptic settings, yet just as essential to his vision is a well-rounded view of the spectrum of human belief and experience. Dead Man's Letters features a collection of nuclear winter survivors with a range of different opinions on what the crisis says about civilization (or what's left of it); A Visitor to a Museum recognizes that both escapism and obsession over ills of the world are prone to be carried to insanity-inducing extremes; Turn of the Century compared past and present generations and selves; Russian Symphony and The Ugly Swans explore how various institutions demand certain traits from their subjects to permit survival; and The Role and Through the Black Glass recognize the advantages & disadvantages of morphing one's identity to fit in.
The half-hour Solo (1980), Lopushansky's second work, is also strongly concerned with the circumstances behind people's appearances. Set during WW2, it follows a shy, nervous musician from the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, which is preparing to broadcast a symphony to England as a show of Russian strength in the face of a current German attack. Of course, the people are starving and anxious even without the pressure of performing what is essentially a Soviet PR mission. The film follows the day of the concert as the protagonist, who will have the center of attention when he plays an important French horn solo, hobbles around a wintry Leningrad showing no enemy soldiers but plenty of signs of institutional decay & walls closing in. Not much of immediate consequence happens so much as an interior war of attrition is externalized by the soloist's wandering through bleak surroundings, finding his home an abandoned ruin, fearing his own inability to bargain for food, and seeing bodies frozen in the snow.
Yet glimpses of goodness shine through in occasional acts of kindness from equally weary strangers; as a protean Lopushansky film, Solo highlights the importance of any generosity in a miserable situation. In his hour in the spotlight, the soloist performs admirably, with the final shot of the film being a photograph still of the orchestra that recedes from view as the wind begins to drown out the music. Perhaps it's equally appropriate that the piece being played is Tchaikovsky’s Fifth, a symphony initially dismissed as too repetitive & concluding crudely yet enduring to becoming a defining work of the great composer. It seems that Lopushansky fears (and opposes) more than anything else the possibility of grace being unacknowledged as the world forgets history and marches to hell, hence his interest in depicting both noteworthy acts & the long, aching efforts in between.