The film, Moscow On The Hudson, brings the viewers to the height of the Cold War, during World War II. In the beginning, the movie is set in communist Russia, but it soon advances to democratic America. The Russians thought poorly of Americans, and constantly referred to them as “whores with disease. ” This film proves to Americans how fortunate they are to live in America, where freedom is not just an unapproachable dream, but is a way of life, a reality.
Vladimir, the main character, is a Russian, dwelling in the Soviet Union with his family, which includes his mother, father, sister, and grandfather who was a war hero in World War II. In the Soviet Union, Vladimir is a musician in the circus, and plays the saxophone. The circus that he is part of, visits New York. The government poses many restrictions on the group while in America, such as to stay away from the subways, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and Greenwich Village.
In New York, the foreigners are in total awe. This was an entirely new experience to them. Some instances why this was completely stunning to them were they were able to get toilet paper, which was a luxury to them, practically anywhere, whereas in Russia, they may only receive toilet paper when they are told, and must wait on a line that stretches for blocks, also in New York they were able to go shopping, and buy designerwear by famous designers such as Calvin Kline. The main appeal of America, though, was freedom.
As the Russians receive their last taste of America and its freedom, by shopping at Bloomingdales, while Vladimir’s friend is too much of a coward to follow through, Vladimir defects in the department store, causing complete chaos. Vladimir’s decision to defect was an audacious one, knowing he would have to sacrifice seeing his family, grandfather, or girlfriend again, and not knowing a soul in America, take the risk to try to get by on his own, and if he was not offered citizenship, then he would be sent to a mental institution back in Russia.
Two of the department store’s employees befriend him. Lionel Witherspoon, the security guard, and Lucia, the Italian immigrant, who also is awaiting citizenship, from behind the perfume counter, who becomes more than just his friend. Lionel teaches him the way of life in the United States. Witherspoon introduces him to Orlando, a lawyer, to help him become a citizen. He tells Vladimir, “America is a strange and wonderful place. ” Vladimir soon adjusts to the American lifestyle, and goes to night school, where he learns to read and write.
He takes upon many jobs, such as cleaning tables at a restaurant, a sales job, a hotdog stand, McDonalds, drives taxi part time, and a limo driver. Also, Vladimir buys his own apartment. Vladimir had yet to learn that America was not the fantasy he had been enduring. Lucia utterly crushes his heart when she tells him she never wants to see him again, but worst of all, while walking into his apartment, he is held at gunpoint, and mugged. As a consequence, he had a black eye. This incident totally altered his positive attitude towards America.
Vladimir revolts against America, and feels that New York now daunts him. He actually longed to go back to Russia. In the midst of his revolt, he states, “If freedom exists here in America than she is an orphan,” meaning that America is alone if people think freedom actually exists, because of the crime rate, etc. Orlando helps him to calm this short-term fit, and modify his temporary beliefs. He tells him about waiting on line for bread, etc. Vladimir is once again proud to be in America.
It is ironic how in the end of the movie, we discover that the man forcing him to go back to Russia, now lives in America and works at a hotdog stand. He describes America to Vladimir as “strange and wonderful. ” This film presented to its audience, the difference of the way people act, and the diverse ways of life that communists live under and people abiding in a democratic society. The people being forced to live under communism can only ideate what life as a “free” citizen is like. This movie demonstrates a foreigner’s struggle to live his life with every American’s natural born right, “freedom. ”