Gherman's masterly film (his third) is framed as an autobiographical reminiscence of the 1930s, just before the Stalinist terror began to bite. Through the eyes of a nine-year-old we watch episodes from the life of a small town police chief: his home life in a ludicrously overcrowded apartment, his unsuccessful courtship of a glamorous actress, and his rather more successful campaign to hunt down the criminal fraternity of the Soloviev gang. There is nothing sinister about this Ivan, but the film is crammed with tiny suggestions of the horrors to come, designed to provoke disquieting speculations about the eventual fate of this potentially dangerous man. Gherman's methods are resolutely observational and low key, and his subject is the lull before the storm; the drama emerges as if by accident from a collage of resonant and deeply felt scenes from day-to-day life. Wonderfully vivid performances and amazingly original camerawork (mostly in elegantly faded monochrome) bring a vanished world to life with complete conviction.