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Proshchanie (1983)

 |  Drama  |  October 1986 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 299 users  
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Matyora is a small village on a beautiful island with the same name. The existence of the village is threatened with flooding by the construction of a dam. This is the story of the ... See full summary »


(as E. Klimov)


(novel), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: Proshchanie (1983)

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Anna Kustova
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Nadezhda Pogorishnaya
Lyudmila Polyakova
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(as I. Bezyayev)


Matyora is a small village on a beautiful island with the same name. The existence of the village is threatened with flooding by the construction of a dam. This is the story of the inhabitants of Matyora and their farewell to their homeland. Written by Jochen Bauer

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Release Date:

October 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Farewell  »

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Larissa Shepitko's Ultimate Statement?
6 June 2006 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

PROSHCHANIE S MATYOROY presents two speculative and unanswerable questions: -1. How much of this film is from the mind of and therefore is the work of Larisa Shepitko; and 2. What insight as to the possible direction of Shepitko's further career can be projected outward from this.

PROSHCHANIE S MATYOROY or FAREWELL was adapted from a novel which makes it doubly difficult to discern the Shepitko touch. The story concerns an island whose community must abandon it because a new dam is being built to create a vast, deep lake which will inundate the island. I was about to write 'forever' but recently a town, buried when the Colorado River was damned to create a lake decades ago, has recently come out of its Brigadoon like slumber due to a decade long drought.

Ecology is definitely the message of the film but, as it was a 70s film, but the scientific urgency was not so much an issue as the spiritual, cultural and social meanings of man's mastery of nature. There is a Lawrencian connection between nature and the life force. And the priests in this nature worship were the witches of old, who communicated with nature and bore the responsibility of being a bridge between people and nature. This is not just tree hugging but full blown nature intercourse. In this case, the disaster is somewhat literal as Man becomes the King of Nature.

The future, the post-Matyora era, is first symbolized by the astounding ugliness of a passing barge, it's discordant and synthetic appearance contrasted with the harmoniousness of the island's nature. The fact that the dam is to provide electricity is emphasized by the hypnotizing image of a flickering and rolling B&W TV with a pop show of surpassingly vulgarity and artificiality interrupted by an appearance of cosmonauts in space broadcasting from what seems to be a very crowded studio apartment.

Previously the island's culture had been expressed as the community celebrated events connected to the passing of the seasons and of the crop cycles. These celebrations are lusty without being bawdy, stemming from their origins in fertility and fecundity. This is straight out of Lawrence.

When the tree cutters arrive at the beginning of the picture they are dressed in modern industrial garb but resemble the invading Mongol's Golden Hord. The great central image of the film is one great tree at the center of the island. Its girth and hardness defeats the tree cutters. They attempt to bulldoze it and finally try to burn it. That fails. This is another Shepitko concordance with the work of Tarkowsky whose last film's last image was a burning tree.

The islanders have no choice in the matter. They must evacuate the island and as the waters rise those closest to the shore leave. The houses, some of whose intricate detail and exquisite design would make the readers of the Sunday Times hearts flutter, are burned. One wants to say 'unceremoniously'. The last to leave is the high priestess of the nature cult. Before she leaves she spends the entire night laboriously and ruthlessly scrubbing her house in every nook and cranny and even whitewashing the chimney. Masses of flowers are brought in until they fill every corner and bower. Then she walks out and walks away as "the men' burn her house. This is her farewell.

The islanders are collected a development being built for them. They are going to live in apartment blocks, the noisy streets filled with motorbikes, the sense of existing in a world, and not on a world, now lost forever. That is what the film is about: a lost world, perhaps one of many lost worlds being drowned by what passes for progress, taking with them cultures, communities, skills, a rich, earthy spirituality, and a harmony with nature. In exchange for a, prefabricated hell complete with gimcrack culture and official atheism which we now see was merely the obverse of contemporary evangelism based on material greed, sexual fear and the superstition that if one loudly and publicly believes in God that all one's inside straights will be filled.

Though similar in theme to WILD RIVER (1960), FAREWELL differs greatly as the American film takes the legalistic and personal view while Shepitko examines the spiritual. In the light of the present ecological crisis it is FAREWELL which retains its relevancy because it questions the ultimate benefit of destroying nature for some progress of questionable or even dubious value.

The film that FAREWELL most resembles is Michael Powell's EDGE OF THE WORLD (1937). It's an interesting contrast between culturs. The fertility ritual on this stark Hebridean isle is climbing the sheer cliffs, a dour and individual rite as opposed to the communal celebration of music and feast on Matyora.

The word constantly repeated throughout the film seems to be Hawatchit!

  • 'enough'(?). That might have been the title of the far more serious

film that Shepiyko might make today. The 'what' and 'why' of what we are doing not only to the environment but to the cultural and spiritual life on this planet are answered by a big, really big, - ENOUGH! Whatever, Shepitko surely wouldn't have been toting the party line for another decade, and post Soviet might have found her even more vociferously disdainful of the corruption and material excesses of the new order. Shepitko might even be more in trouble in the Russia of the oligarchs and gangsters for whom despoiling the environment is merely a cash transaction. The Clinton administration rejected Kyoto because it would effect the US economy. Imagine what the murderous crew running things in Russia would do if environmentalism effected their money supply? Then again, that is speculative and unanswerable. Shepitko always avoided glib opportunism for deeper truth. Her few works can only be a sad evidence to the great artist we have lost and to remind us of the great works of art we'll never know.

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