from Imaging Russia 2000: Film and Facts
Anna M. Lawton

... The true blockbuster of the early 1990s was Love (1992), by Valery Todorovsky. The film is as much about hatred as it is about love, one being the complementary side of the other, and both being inescapable elements in the dynamics of opposite forces which constitute life itself. Love moved audiences to tears with the unhappy story of a young couple, and elevated the young protagonist, Yevgeny Mironov, to the status of a movie star. Valery Todorovsky, the son of a director of the old guard (Pyotr Todorovsky) well known for his successful sentimental comedies, got inspiration from the stockpile of Soviet popular movies that offered the audience stirring melodramas, compelling characters, a blend of humor and passion, and a selection of realistic details. He enlivened this proven recipe with new features, rejecting the prudishness characteristic of the old days and peppering the film with colorful teenage slang and sex. The film, however, has deeper implications than a simple love story because of the racial issue it represents.

Sasha, a student from a working-class family, meets Masha and falls in love with her. Their idyll is suddenly shattered by the arrival of the official papers Masha's family had requested to emigrate to Israel. Suddenly a barrier comes between the two lovers: Masha is a Jew, while Sasha is a Russian. The Romeo and Juliet motif here acquires an anti-Semitic coloration. A few years earlier Masha had been the victim of a collective rape by a gang of Russian teenagers, but when her mother pressed charges the judge dismissed the case and Masha's assailants went unpunished. The shock from that episode makes it difficult for Masha to accept Sasha's love at the beginning of their romance, and although later she overcomes the mental block, the idea of her identity as a Jew remains connected to the memory of the violence she suffered. At the end of the film, the ancient wound prompts her decision to leave for her "historical motherland." But it is clear from the context that for Masha this is a rhetorical notion, and that she sees Israel as a never-neverland rather than the crisis-ridden place it really is. After the first glasnost movies on the subject, which supported the plight of the Soviet Jews, this film treats the Jewish theme with a deeper awareness that reflects the attitude of the younger generation. The film undermines both Russian nationalism and Jewish fundamentalism, suggesting that the polarization of ideological positions leads to an unhappy ending.