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Forgotten Masterpiece

10/10
Author: eyingfanyi from United States
17 February 2014

Nobody remembers this movie any more. I'm not even sure that it ever played in any English speaking theaters; I can't find English subtitles for it anywhere. But this movie is a gem.

A story involving an orphan - a common figure in Soviet movies; the Soviet Union had two big generations of orphans, one from the revolution and the civil war and another from World War II. This orphan has been adopted by a well-to-do family in Leningrad and is just finishing college when she finds out that her mother is still alive. The mother is a peasant in a small village who wants to see her daughter. This provides the dramatic setting, with a number of subplots arising.

The two leads, the ballerina-like Lyudmila Marchenko as the orphan and Valentin Zubkov, with his military, masculine persona, as a village official, are shipshape, but the best acting in the movie is provided in two major supporting roles by Vera Kuznetsova, very typically cast as the mother, underplaying a part that could easily descend into bathos, and Nonna Mardyukova as a peasant woman who has a variety of personal demons to deal with.

With the cinematography of Pyotr Katayev, which tells a moving, lyrical tale, effectively using darkness and morning mist in this black and white film in a way that makes you fall in love with the Russian countryside and that sometimes reveals much more about what's going on in the story than the actual action on the screen, and a superb, lush musical score by Yuri Biryukov, you'll wonder why the rarefied, art-house produce of the likes of Tarkovsky and Kalatozov got so much attention by comparison.

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