It’s a Russian program, produced one hundred years after the Russian revolution, a timeline of how the middle classes in pre-revolution Russia dealt with it, and it’s like something that you’ve never seen before.
It’s a history, it’s a romance, it’s a war story, but mostly it’s just a good, soap opera retelling of Russian Revolution facts. Based on the book by Alexei Tolstory, The Road to Calvary cast is charming, and it traverses six years in a manner that draws you in and makes you attached to the characters.
The Road to Calvary: a TV show from a different perspective
The unique thing about this show is how the producer and director were capable of looking back to pre-Communist times and depicting the different classes that existed: peasants, servants, middle class and nobility.
The story centers on two sisters, Katia and Dasha, who are part of the middle class. At the start of the 12 episode series, the two sisters are attracted to the same man, a poet who performs in theaters and is lauded by society. Only one of the sisters manages to consummate her love, and both are nearly destroyed by Alexei Bessonov, who predicts the end of Russia.
The eldest sister, Katia, is married and troubled. At the start of the story, Dasha lives with her elder sister and her husband in St. Petersburg while she attends school.
Dasha meets Ivan Telegin, and the attraction is mutual. But Telegin is a solider, and he is whisked off to battle in World War I. Their separation leads Dasha to experience some of what separated spouses go through during wartime.
Katya’s husband eventually dies, and she too finds love with a soldier. But as the Russian Revolution begins, Katya and Dasha’s spouses find themselves on opposite sides. Dasha’s husband Telegin is a Red, while Katya’s husband is a White.
This leads to all sorts of complications.
Russian Revolution Facts and The Road to Calvary
The cinematography of The Road to Calvary is picturesque. Drones were used to film the battle scenes from overhead. Most of the filming took place during winter, and snow is ubiquitous throughout.
What I liked was the characterization: the neurotic quality of Katya, the in-your-face quality of Dasha who is also overly emotional, their father, who is distant in a non-cruel way. Telegin is charismatic, and Katya’s husband has a definite Russian flair that showcases his masculinity.
Apparently, this is the third Soviet production of Tolstoy’s novel The Road to Calvary. This time, the producers concentrated on the human details as opposed to the Communist victory in the Revolution. It also doesn’t shield from the bloodshed of war. Producer Timyur Weinstein comments in Drama Quarterly:
“Well, we think it’s a universal story – it’s about love, life and the wars,” he adds. “We’ve had a lot of adaptations being made in Russia [such as remakes of Breaking Bad and The Bridge]. But [original] Russian formats have long been deserving of international attention and international viewers.
“In the current market, we think we can overcome any barriers that have existed in the past. This is where we’re headed. I have been involved in a lot of foreign adaptations and I know that the foundation of a successful one is always a good screenplay and an interesting story. I think The Road to Calvary is exactly that.”
The Road to Calvary book
The Road to Calvary is based on three books that transpire over 20 years, ending in the 1940s.
For his trilogy Alexey Tolstoy was awarded the Stalin Prize of the first degree in the amount of 100,000 rubles on March 19, 1943, which he transferred to the Defense Fund for the construction of the tank “Grozny” (T-34 No. 310-0929).