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One of the soviet cinema masterpieces, and it passes the test of time rather well. I watched the film version as a kid, and it was impressive, but this, extended, version, re-edited for West German TV to almost twice the movie length (over 400 minutes, sliced into 5 episodes) is even better for there are less holes in continuity. Alov & Naumov, production designers, and the brilliant cinematographer Valentin Zheleznyakov in the mid-1970s did what Peter Greenaway achieved somewhat laterthey made Dutch and Spanish classic painting come alive, creating the total illusion of immersing in the believable (albeit mythological) period as perceived and depicted by Masters.
Although the cast is the all-star band of soviet cinema of that period (with, again, believable faces, unlike the present day actors' well-fed mugs), the voice-overs are atrocious, intonations false and theatrical, and the dialogue stilted and unnatural. This, however, with time is perceived as the conventionality, and all attention is paid to the picture. Even the human effigy of Byelokhvostikova (Nele) is very watchable, 'cause she, of course, has an almost ideal face (but a bad actress nevertheless). As for the design and picture, again, it's like watching a living painting, and I wish there were a guide somewhere, explaining to broad public what art masterpieces were used as inspirations where (I could see a lot but not all of them, of course, I'm not that visual myself).
Another minor shortcoming is that some scenes seem to be rather bloated time-wise, but, again, this might be our impression nowadays, after all the extra-fast editing of contemporary blockbusters. And, don't forget, soviet viewers needed all the explanation one could offer them. In order to feel the pain and rage of the character, watch all 10 minutes of him being tortured on the wheel, bitches.
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