Seventy-one -- Valentin Lugonov
From Kevin Brownlow’s It Happened Here (1964), in which Hitler successfully occupies Britain, to Pierre Coffin’s Minions (2015), set in 1968, in which Queen Elizabeth II is deposed by an animated blob, the film genre of alternate history has had – to put it mildly – a checkered career. In among the dregs produced by the auteurs manqué who settled on the genre of alternate history in their desperate (and fruitless) search for the holy grail of originality, a handful of movies have achieved the critics’ anointment as cinema, as opposed to trash: Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki's Delivery Service (a 20th century devoid of war), Kevin Willmott’s C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (the American Civil War won by the South), Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (Hitler assassinated in 1944).
However, most serious scholars of cinema agree that Valentin Lagunov’s Seventy-One (семьдесят один) stands head and shoulders above these other, admittedly fine works – not only for the importance of its basic premise, which posits an Age of Aquarius that originates in the Soviet Union (with the discovery of LSD by a pair of scientists at the University of Moscow), but for the unfettered romanticism of its style, through which Lagunov demonstrates not only how society would be different in his alternative universe, but how the aesthetics of cinema, itself, would be unimaginably different (if Lagunov’s creative genius had not imagined it for us).