This film is the second film I see from Marlen Khutsiyev, the other "July Rain"(1967), which is a Soviet New Wave classic, and deserves that place.
I liked this film a lot, though it's not perfect, it is very deep and spiritual, and there is so much intellect and heart in it. The story is simple. A husband's elderly father-in-law comes to visit his daughter and her husband. Unfortunately the wife leaves the city on business for a couple of weeks, and her husband is working on a dissertation at home. The husband is stuck with spending time and hosting the old man. The old man is filled with life, he sings, shouts, and seems to know everything about everything: tobacco, wine. He, basically, never shuts up; but he is kind and friendly. The husband tolerates him, and is happy to make him as comfortable as possible. But the old man starts to really irritate the husband. He always thinks he's right and always goes on and on. He knows 5 languages and has traveled the world, so he has much to say. The story is narrated scarcely by the husband who says the events took place a year ago.
This film is sad, realistic, poetic and at times funny. All the things I'm used to from Soviet films. A lot of the old man's dialogue is funny because he doesn't know how annoying he's being. The old man realizes that he is old and useless; but he tries to stay positive. The husband also sees this in the old man. So much dialogue goes by.. we get inside the heads of these men, and we start to understand who they are really. It's a wonderful movie because it is simply human, in the simplest sense.
The style of the film reminds me of Godard and Tarkovsky. Actually there is a breath-taking war-footage sequence to rival Tarkovsky's in Mirror's and Godard's opening in Notre Musique. Khutsiyev's style always has reminded me mostly of Godard: his combinations of visuals, music and narration.. and switching music and soundtrack at unexpected times; i don't necessarily like that about him. Certain shots in this film really make me think of Notre Musique. Of course he new Tarkovsky (Tarkovsky was an actor in a movie of his "I'm 20 Years Old"), and Tarkovsky fans should sense an influence or a like-mindedness. I'd say it's an artistic movie, and very poetic, I love the intro. Script and acting are perfect, so is the look of the film, the colors. I don't usually praise editing, but I have to on this film: the intro and the war-montage later are enough for me.
For me the message of this film was to pay more attention to the older generation, because we learn from them things we can't figure out fast enough for ourselves. They are reflections of the life we are starting for ourselves. It's also about how your humanity can disappear and how it can be reborn through relationships with people. A very deep movie, but if you're spiritually empty, you probably won't feel a thing and not like it.
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