An old man recounts a fairy-tale to a group of children about a stone-cutter, "Danila", who strives for perfection and meets with the mystical "Queen of Copper Hill". She asks him to sacrifice himself and remain with her in her unreachable world of stone at the expense of his married life with "Katinka", the girl he loves and whom he has just married.
The film is made in colour which is refreshing for 1946 and it is 15 minutes longer than described on IMDb. However, the story drags. The Russian hierarchy is very effectively captured - we witness the cruelties of the ruling classes who take to flogging the poor. They don't just flog them, they beat them to death for not working hard enough or not finishing a piece of work in time. Danila's talent at stone sculpture results in him being commissioned to make a piece for a wealthy landowner who wants to show off. However, the "Queen of Copper Hill" intervenes. It takes ages for this part of the story to get going, though.
Vladimir Druzhnikov is good in the lead role as "Danila". He looks a bit gay and girlie and very much suits the artistic type that is required for the film. The sets within the world of stone in Copper Hill are interesting in a "Star Trek" kind of way but each section of the film just seems to drag on for too long. Apart from the dance sequence in the wedding episode - one of the more entertaining parts of the film.
I also felt that the ending of the film could have been better. It's a happy-ending story but it would have been far more effective as a tragedy. We are led to believe that the Queen of Copper Hill has an evil sacrifice up her sleeve and that someone is going to get turned to stone for eternity. This is exactly what the film needs. But it doesn't happen. She suddenly switches to a goodie and we get a "love conquers all" message which is a disappointment. The film keeps you watching with false expectations and I felt cheated at the end. The rules suddenly change from "You can never go back!" to "Ok you can go back now". Very lame. The film needed an effective finale, ie, some tragedy, to redeem the rest of the tedious film but it didn't happen. It scores for novelty value only.
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