Ladies Tailor

Ch. 16 Perestroika and Beyond: Old Wine in New Bottles?

Ladies Tailor (1990) is set in Kiev, on the eve of the mass execution in Babi Yar on September 29, 1941. An old Jewish tailor, Isaac (portrayed by the famous Soviet actor, Innokentii Smoktunovskii) joins his family in their soon-to-be-lost home. The film chronicles the last twenty-four hours of their lives.  The night is almost mundane: family members pack, bake cookies for the road, argue and reminiscence about the past. But what appears to be a simple story emerges as an intense drama raising complex and terrifying questions about the fate of the Jews under Nazi and Soviet tyranny. Nazi violence is never fully depicted on screen—the film ends with a procession of Jews being marched to Babi Yar—but stops short of showing the execution. The procession just marches on until it dissolves in a close-up. This is the scene you see here.

Availability: Ladies Tailor is available on DVD, with English subtitles, from the National Center for Jewish Film.

  1. The film is based on an earlier play. What did the film add to it?
  2. The execution is not depicted in this film. How is the Holocaust represented on screen?
  3. What does this scene have in common with earlier Soviet films about the Holocaust, and with international films?
  4. The filmmaker chose to end the scene with a shot of a contemporary street. How do you understand its appearance in a historic film?