Ending many years of blacklists, Mikhail Vartanov returns one last time in his career to black and white cinema to depict the dark crimes of Stalin’s purges with the testimony of one remarkable survivor: a working 94 year old woman doctor. The optimistic opening of the film, perhaps Vartanov’s concession to his terrified colleagues who doubted the permanence of Gorbachev’s recent reforms, seems to have an entirely different effect, however, when the story abruptly changes its course, and the doctor — still deeply afraid even at her age — warns the filmmaker before parting: “Be careful. You must be very careful.”
Erased Faces (1987) was the first film made in Armenia (and one of the first important Soviet films) to condemn the tabu subject of Stalin’s purges.
The untold story of the 94 year old protagonist of the film also compelled Vartanov to tell of the similar fate that befell the bright young stars of his first film The Color of the Land (1969) — the assassinated painter Minas Avetisyan (Avetisian) and the imprisoned Sergei Paradjanov — and he completed a trilogy with Minas: A Requiem (1989) and Parajanov: The Last Spring (1992). Erased Faces (1987) also inspired Martiros Vartanov’s Boy With a Movie Camera.