Vanya is a 6 year old orphan living in a rundown orphanage in a remote Russian village. For Vanya and the other children, life is without hope, unless, of course, they are adopted by wealthy foreigners. For Vanya, hope comes in the form of an Italian couple. But while arrangements are being made an incident occurs when the mother of another child appears, seeking her son. Vanya begins to wonder what would happen if his own mother reappeared, and he was living in Italy.With the assistance of older children, Vanya is able to access his records and find the possible whereabouts of his mother. He escapes and travels across the country, pursued by the adoption agents. Written by
In Germany the film is only available in the original language (Russian) with German subtitles, although it has been given a German title ("Der Italiener") at the Berlin Film Festival (2005). On the the German DVD edition English subtitles can be found in addition. See more »
"The Italian", a debut film by Andrei Kravchuk, is an outstanding film by any standard; and yet the film failed to win any major awards not even the consolation of a Best Foreign Film Oscar. It won the minor category of Children's film award created for the purpose at Venice, but nowhere else, as if a film about children automatically becomes a children's film.
Three reasons spring to mind; it was a commercial dud possibly due to lack of commercial skills of the makers; contrary to public perception, shock value and financial success rules the fate of a movie even at the top festivals where the judges are mostly the mega-stars from Hollywood and around the world; and the debut production of a young person from a poor country still on the other side of the divide stood as little chance of an award as of Castro winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
So what did I find exceptional in the movie? To start with the least important, the cinematography was par excellence. The depiction of desolate, gloomy environment of Russian winter, with telephoto shots of barbed wires quivering as if in the cold air; the claustrophobic shots of vast landscape (even if done through back projection) from the inside of cars and train were awesome.
The second most outstanding quality of the film was the acting, particularly by all the child actors. It wasn't just great; it was breathtaking in its realism, as if the kids were chosen from an actual asylum which they weren't. The adults had no chance to compete against such talent, but managed to perform professionally.
The most outstanding characteristic of the film got to be the director, whose command in every field music; editing; locations; camera angles; choice of lenses and suppression of any tinge of sentimentality was evident.
I don't accept it's a rehash of Dickens's Oliver Twist suggested by some commentators. The harsh brutality of criminal gangs of 18th century Britain in Oliver Twist has nothing in common with the sad declension of Russian society and morale since the glasnost. If anything, the story has more in common with the magical realism of Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
That's why the unsentimental ending gels with the mood of the movie.
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