IMDb > Letter Never Sent (1959)

Letter Never Sent (1959) More at IMDbPro »Neotpravlennoye pismo (original title)


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Release Date:
1959 (Soviet Union) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
Four geologists are searching for diamonds in the wilderness of Siberia. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Awards:
1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Spirit of Kropotkin See more (12 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order)
Tatyana Samoylova ... Tanya
Evgeniy Urbanskiy ... Sergei
Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy ... Sabinine
Vasili Livanov ... Andrei
Galina Kozhakina ... Vera

Directed by
Mikhail Kalatozov 
 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Grigori Koltunov 
Valeri Osipov  screenplay (as V. Osipov)
Valeri Osipov  story (as V. Osipov)
Viktor Rozov 

Original Music by
Nikolai Kryukov 
 
Cinematography by
Sergey Urusevskiy 
 
Film Editing by
N. Anikina 
 
Production Design by
David Vinitsky 
 
Costume Design by
Leonid Naumov 
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Sergey Urusevskiy .... assistant director
 
Music Department
Arnold Roytman .... conductor (as A. Roytman)
 

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Neotpravlennoye pismo" - Soviet Union (original title)
"The Unmailed Letter" - USA
See more »
Runtime:
97 min | USA:80 min
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Did You Know?

Trivia:
In 1995 the film was restored by and shown in United States upon the financial support from Francis Coppola.See more »

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful.
Spirit of Kropotkin, 17 December 2011
Author: oOgiandujaOo from United Kingdom

The naming of the film as The Unsent Letter seems a little bit mystifying, in that it suggests that the whole film is about the letter, whereas that's something of an under-developed tangent.

The story concerns four Soviet geologists, prospecting for diamonds in remote Siberia. Gentle and committed Marxist-Leninist folk, they are all in love, Tanya and Andrey with each other, Sabinine with the wife he left behind (Vera), and Sergey is left with the thorns of the rose, in unrequited love with Tanya (oh no!). The idea of the expedition is that a source of domestic sparklers will lead to the betterment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, perhaps even a new industrial revolution, releasing them from a reliance on foreign capitalists.

The popular wisdom of today (social Darwinism) has it that communism failed because humans are essentially selfish, human nature is competitive, families are nepotistic. Ideas about human nature being essentially negative were around before the establishment and subsequent collapse of any nations along principles looking something like Karl Marx's. The classic counterargument was made by Prince Kropotkin, (who himself led geological expeditions in Siberia) suggesting that human competitive behaviour was actually a marginal characteristic that capitalism had harnessed and brought front and centre, in aid of which he cited various anthropological cases, which pointed to the pre-eminence of the spirit of co-operation over the spirit of competition.

Why the history lesson? Well the folks in the movie were living under a different ideology, it was a hopeful ideology, where the spirit of co-operation was seen as an ideal. There were a class of people, represented in this film, who genuinely thrived under Marxist-Leninism (I do not deny the existence of nasties such as Joe Stalin and Beria and their havoc and undermining of Marxist-Leninist principles). It's critical that the way the characters think is understood, and is seen as realistic, for the film to sink in on any other than an aesthetic level (it is one of the most gorgeous movies ever made).

Kalatosov was a hardcore ideologue, an earlier film of his, Nail In The Boot, is hysterically Stalinist / Robespierre-ian. He's toned that down here, although he clearly sees the state as some sort of greater, potentially immortal entity in comparison to the individual. He really did feel that people could pull together in the same direction, for something bigger than themselves, it's simply not just propaganda for him to represent the many people who felt like that.

The reluctance to buy foreign diamonds is interesting because it's only superficially xenophobic, it's not like say, Americans not wanting to buy a foreign car. The Soviets believed that capitalist modes of production and wealth sharing were immoral, so buying South African diamonds was something inherently immoral for them, rather than about protectionism.

On a personal level I found Sergei Stepanovich's story very moving to me, I can't think where I've seen a character like this before. He's in love with someone who's already in a love story, he's jealous, but not ashamed about it. He's never felt that he loves anyone before and he's getting past the age where love stories typically happen, but he's too honourable to do anything dastardly about it to anyone but himself, wandering off into a metaphorical fire of desire. I've gone through the exact same experience, it's so rare to actually feel like a film-makers has have fashioned a character that I can identify with.

I mentioned that The Unsent Letter is one of the masterpieces of cinematography but the editing is brilliant too. I was staggered by one edit in particular, where the face of Vera is overlaid onto Sabinine's face, and they share one eye. I just felt, "What a perfect way to show that their souls had joined!". Kalatosov at heart seems to have been a bit of a romantic, and liked working in overpowering love stories into his work, for example in The Red Tent.

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