[...]Sergei Livnev’s Hammer and Sickle emphasizes the artificiality of high Stalinism by drawing attention to the stylized nature of Stalinist cultural production. Centered on a successful sex-change operation, the film stresses the constructed and performative nature of the Stalinist gendered subject. In spite of the film’s focus on stylization and gender performativity, the film is essentially anti-camp because, in its search for authenticity, it refutes both the Stalinist high style and Soviet gender performance.
Following the protagonist’s transformations from peasant woman to model Soviet man and, finally, to a living museum, the three parts of the film fall into three genre categories: science fiction, ironic comedy, and melodrama. Set in the 1930s, the film tells of a state-sponsored sex-change operation. When a young peasant woman, Evdokiia Kuznetsova, is turned into Evdokim Kuznetsov, s/he is thrown into the center of the Stalinist project. Despite the apparent success of the operation—Evdokim gradually becomes a model Soviet man—he eventually realizes the artificiality of his position and tries to assert his subjectivity independent of the state. [...]