Leningrad, one summer in the early 1980s. On the outskirts of a sunlit forest Mike Naoumenko – a talented and well-established guitarist – sings of his yearning for freedom, watched by his girlfriend Natacha and a group of carefree youths. Little does the rocker know that, propelled by the band Kino and its young and charismatic singer Viktor Stoi, the generation of musicians he represents was about to change the history of rock’n’roll in the Soviet Union.
Two years on from Uchenik (The Student), a sharp critique of religious fanaticism presented at Un Certain Regard, Kirill Serebrennikov has taken a lighter approach to recount the emergence of this musical movement spearheaded by Viktor Tsoi and Mike Naoumenko. Soviet underground rock was hugely popular among the country’s youth for its refusal to be constrained by cultural and ideological barriers. Its popularity in the early 1980s was in direct contrast to the decline of Brezhnev's regime, the last of the Soviet era.
The Russian director and playwright has moved away from the biopic format to tell the story of three carefree lovers in a country oppressed by restrictions. Serebrennikov seeks to capture the innocence associated with the sense of freedom that filled this pivotal era in the Soviet Union’s history, torn between political policies that curbed freedom and the aspirations of the nation’s youth.
The final days of filming on Leto were interrupted when the authorities arrested the director and placed him under house arrest in Moscow in August 2017. His team filmed the missing scenes in St Petersburg using Serebrennikov's preparatory notes, with the director editing the film at home, alone. A tale filled with music, love and friendship, Serebrennikov's film depicts a turbulent period that will be forever etched into his country’s history.