"Comrades" has been described as one of the lost masterpieces of European cinema. It appeared in 1987 to critical acclaim then disappeared almost as quickly.
For my opinion Bill Douglas's masterpiece stands alongside the best of Tarkovsky, Bresson and Bergman. Within minutes the viewer is pulled into a story of love and passion, solidarity and bravery. 'Comrades' is not just one-dimensional political polemic either. Far from it. Nor just a historical epic. This is character-driven story-telling of the highest order, definitely, although there are many layers to the film. It fuses and transcends both narrative drama and the avante garde and cries out for further viewings.
In many ways 'Comrades' is an experimental visionary movie as well as a tribute to the cinema that came before cinema. (Watch out for the magic lanternist who appears in many guises.) Interestingly, the famous actors of the day - who Douglas didn't want in the film but was forced to use - were cast as the affluent classes while complete unknowns were cast as the Martyrs and their families.
Director Bill Douglas was a man knew about poverty and struggle. He was raised in abject poverty in Newcraighall, which was then an impoverished mining village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. His autobiographical 'Trilogy' - filmed in a post-war Newcraighall that is now gone - is his only other cinematic output. But what a work! It is by far the finest cinematic achievement to ever come out of Scotland. Even the film scripts of 'Trilogy' are works of literature in their own right.