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This film is art. Like the Battleship Potiomkin, this Russian film doesn't aim at being an easy film, made to entertain and to fill people's brains with sugary dullness. It's its credibility, the Soviet neo-realism that it uses, which strikes. The way in which the film aims to show what Russia was like, in the Communist years. It's a situation hard to understand for a Western civilization. Russian patriotism, their intelligentsia and daily reality of work, study and vodka.
Which is why maybe, seen from a Western point of view, this movie may be not only hard to understand but also hard to follow as far as the concept of time is concerned. It remains a mystery in fact, how the characters find time to do everything or almost everything in one way. How people give strangers none, just by asking. How people seem to be so different, as well as their culture.
But that's not entirely to hold against the movie. It's the international realism that bites back the improbability of the film. The problems of 20 year olds, the silent struggle for political diversity, shown by the poets and their poems, and the struggle to cross the line to adulthood.
The photography is sublime. The voice overs that carry the movie away are profoundly extraordinary. Sergej looks at the sky and says "There is so much peace in the cosmos". Or the dance in the dark ballroom, Anja holding the candles which slowly become the only source of light. It's all very artistically deep, and it's strange how this film can hold the test of time.
Not to mention the chase scene, where Sergej follows Anya, unwilling to accept the fact that their relationship cannot end to being a simple encounter on a bus. Then there's the element of the friendship, challenged by aging.
It's not Soviet cinema at its best. Occasionally, the movie slows the pace down and becomes too much to bear. For example, the poetry scene is profound and meaningful, but much too long. The silent walks around Moscow are beautiful and suggestive, but again, always too long, although they unfold great and innovative camera work.
But it's one to see, because regardless of the fact that it's almost too meaningful, it's a good watch that draws you and drives you to thinking.
WATCH FOR THE MOMENT - When Sergej meets his father, who died in the WWII, and talks to him. The scene involves the atheist beliefs of Communism but at the same time signals to us that some sort of hope is there.
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