George Blake: Masterspy of Moscow
Following the screening, Carey began the discussion by highlighting that agents such as Blake often face serious identity crises.
“You’ve got these two lives, which you’ve got to keep separate. And you haven’t just got to keep it separate in the sense that you don’t tell your boss what you’re doing. But you have to keep it separate from your wife, your children, and in the end from one side of your head. And it’s such a strain,” he said.
In Blake’s case, this was reinforced by his complicated, and at times unstable, background. He was raised in the Netherlands by his Calvinist mother and Jewish father with roots in both Cairo and Istanbul. After the occupation of his home country, young Blake fled to London with his mother in 1943.
The documentary narrates how the now 92-year-old former spy offered himself as a double agent to the KGB during his imprisonment in North Korea, and how he was later imprisoned for acts of treason. Blake escaped prison five year later, in 1966, and fled to Moscow where he remains to this day.
Carey explained to the audience how he tried to contact Blake’s former wife, who eventually refused to comment. Curiously, one of his sons chose a profession that Blake aspired to when he was young: he is currently a vicar in Surrey.
“But I decided not to include that. I felt the essence of the story was George himself,” Carey said.
He also underlined that aside from religion, Blake had been influenced by a strong moment of transition after the Second World War when anti-colonialist sentiment was sweeping the world.
“Who was whose spy was a very ambiguous business. What you had was the Americans, the British and the Russians, principally, in the early 1950s. All had their own staff agents and they all had their own informers. The trouble was that someone who was one of your informers (…) was probably informing somebody else as well,” Carey said.
He also pointed out that such inner frictions remain key up to the present day. Carey mentioned the recent assassination of Boris Nemtsov as one such example: “It is becoming clearer and clearer that this is because there are factions inside the FSB and the Kremlin.”
Nevertheless, Carey acknowledged that speculation is “almost axiomatic” when making a film about a spy and talking about secret intelligence services.
“You have to understand I’m just a humble old filmmaker. I do my best.” Carey said.