|Index||3 reviews in total|
A spellbinding animated short. The background is utterly expressionistic, appearing like volcanic rock. In the foreground, the figures stay still for enough moments to appear to be part of different style of animation, where we are seeing a a photo. Then the figures move as if life was just breathed into them. As a whole it is a bravura display of animation mastery. Innovatory technique need not be in only abstract work. The animation can be delirious and stunning, like here, or in the real-life action of a Powell/Pressburger movie. Various types of animation are used to augment the main style. More than augment, they amaze as each new surprise lives up to the last. The culmination of the lead-up is sightly disappointing at first, as it's an event that so many have pulled thrills and adrenalin rushes from before these filmmakers. The downers lasts a few moments only as the animation clicks back into top gear. It reminds of 'Une nuit sur le Mont Chauve' in how both stirring and magical it is.
The Battle of Kerzhenets is wonderfully done and remarkable in how much power and emotional resonance it has for a ten minute short. In a way it is true that some knowledge of Russian history will help in getting the grasp of the story The Battle of Kerzhenets is telling. But at the same time it isn't hugely vital because there is so much to make you admire The Battle of Kerzhenets regardless of that, if you want a personal opinion some research would prove very useful even if it's the basic gist. The animation is really striking, the somewhat expressionistic style gives a haunting edge, everything moves with great fluidity, the attention to detail is fantastic and the stoic character designs and their facial expressions fit very well within the style. The music, in unmistakably Rimsky Korsakov fashion, is stirring, tense and affecting in equal measure, merging beautifully with the animation. The story is interesting, told without dialogue and entirely through images, with a powerful climatic battle and a good deal of emotional resonance, whether you know anything about the event or not. In conclusion, remarkable animated short film, a must see in my opinion. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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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