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The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971)
"Secha pri Kerzhentse" (original title)

 -  Animation | Short | War
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 264 users  
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Title: The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971)

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Bitwa nad Kierzencem  »

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Frescoes doing battle
26 April 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Speaking as a Norshteyn fan, I found 'The Battle of Kerzhenets (1971)' – a collaboration with Ivan Ivanov-Vano – to be a general disappointment. It had an interesting concept behind it, certainly, but possessed none of the emotional strength of 'Hedgehog in the Fog (1975)' or 'Tale of Tales (1979),' or even any of Norshteyn's lesser-known short films. The story is based on the folktale of the Invisible City of Kitezh, which is said to have disappeared beneath the waters of a lake to escape a Mongol attack. The film is accompanied by music from famous Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which suits the story exceedingly well, and is animated using two-dimensional stop-motion of 14th-16th century Russian frescoes and paintings. This particular style of animation does have a certain charm about it, but, at the end of the day, there's little emotional energy to the images, because each painted figure – their faces frozen in history – are simply incapable of communicating any real emotion.

As I had absolutely no knowledge of the original legend, it was quite difficult for me to properly follow the story, which is entirely wordless. The high point of the film is certainly the climactic battle between the Russians and the Mongols, though every figure seems to be darting across the frame so quickly that you're unsure of who's killing who. The end of the film offers a refreshing dose of optimism, as, in the aftermath of the devastating bloodshed, the Russians slowly begin to reconstruct their tattered lives: homes and boats are rebuilt, crops are resown, the vibrancy of human life is maintained. Perhaps a healthier knowledge of Russian history and folklore was required to better enjoy this animated short film. In any case, Yuriy Norshteyn did get much better as his distinguished career progressed, and 'The Battle of Kerzhenets' can be viewed as another vital step towards enduring greatness.


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