On her wedding night, young Katerina Kabanova tells her older husband that the only time she was really happy as a child was in church where she felt "transported" just before he sexually attacks her. It isn't long before Katia feels her life "fading away" under the roof of her domineering mother-in-law and embarks on an affair with a young man her own age when her husband's away on business. Upon his return, the couple attend church and during a "fire and brimstone" sermon consigning sinners to the eternal flames of hell, Katia loses it and confesses her transgression in front of the entire village. Her mother-in-law says she ought to be thrown into the Volga and her young man is sent to oversee a store in Siberia so with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Katia considers her mother-in-law's "advice"...
If MADAME BOVARY had been possessed of a crippling Catholic guilt, she'd be Katia in "Thunderstorm", a "domestic drama" (as per the opening credits) of longing and despair. And guilt, of course ...lots of it. Turgidly told and heavy on the symbolic irony (like portent-laden thunderstorms and Katia's husband visiting whorehouses), there's even a Greek chorus of Russian songs commenting on the "action" and it's glaringly obvious by the unattractive cast that communist Russia had no "star system". Beauty's in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, and the star, Alla Tarasova, was reputed to be Joseph Stalin's favorite actress. This was nominated for the Mussolini Cup as "Best Foreign Film" at the 1934 Venice Film Festival and it comes as no surprise to me that MAN OF ARAN won, sight unseen.
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