A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years.
Originally a five-part semi-documentary series on Russian television, this scaled down release tells the story of a Russian naval commander in charge of an Arctic-based ship. The film ... See full summary »
Nearly black and white. Nearly silent with long, meditative stretches of somber lingering.
Death writ large on a screen. Sorrow brought home in the starkest of manners.
A father dies, the funeral is arranged and the body prepared, with as much clumsiness as his life was lived and the relationship with his son unfolded an entire life implied by a film about his place of death and the people that temporarily occupy it during the afterdeath.
What's going on here is simple in a way. This is heavily stylized stuff, stylized in a direction of a dramatic acting exercise, where you have all planes and no edges. This is purported to be Tarkovsky's top student, and there is a trademarked Tarkovsky trick of imposing a miniature landscape, here a village at the end. But this isn't the sort of thing Tarkovsky would ever consider, even if his only film were that mess he made with Bergman.
Tarkovsky (despite his puerile books on the subject) approached films by first seeing a complex fabric, some real, some hyperreal. He seems to have dreamed these complex worlds whole because he is able to express them visually as if they only exist in vision. His films have grand arcs with all sorts of facets that gleam in scattered moments, but brightly enough for you to follow each of the dozens of fireflies he allows sometimes in our field of vision. What you get is multiple abstractions, each one inexplicable but all of them together in motion weave a world as if shrinking a flexible cage of pretended limits can define a real person. You leave his films knowing you have seen real life via music.
This is different. It is visually articulate, but in a static sense. Each scene is wonderfully cinematic and the thing is worth seeing on that basis alone. But these are visions of a stage for a single emotion, not a dream tapestry that surrounds millions of shades of all of life. I know Tarkovsky, and this is no Tarkovsky. Not close, unless you are the sort of Soviet commissar that looks at degrees of abstraction and finds them similar. You leave this knowing you have seen a stageplay that we were supposed to read as intense.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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