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Somewhere in Northern Russia in a small Russian Orthodox monastery lives an unusual man whose bizarre conduct confuses his fellow monks, while others who visit the island believe that the man has the power to heal, exorcise demons and foretell the future.
Two Russian soldiers, one battle-seasoned and the other barely into his boots and uniform, are taken prisoner by an anxious Islamic father from a remote village hoping to trade them for his captured son.
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" is a touching tale of a six-year-old Russian orphan who goes in search of the mother who gave him to a foundling home when he was just an infant.
Vanya has spent virtually his entire life growing up in a substandard orphanage run by an alcoholic director and a cold-hearted administrator. The children there live in virtual squalor with no effort on the part of the leaders to properly instruct or educate them. The future for most of these youngsters is a bleak one indeed, with a life of petty thievery and/or prostitution the most likely outcome for any of them not fortunate enough to catch the eye of some prospective, loving parent. Yet, as the movie begins, young Vanya's personal nightmare seems to be coming to an end as a kind Italian couple has come to Russia with the intention of adopting Vanya and taking him back to Italy with them. However, before the proper papers can be signed, the boy, sensing he must act quickly before it is too late, sets off on a long, arduous journey to see if he can find the mother who abandoned him as a baby.
"The Italian" is a compelling slice-of-life drama that has a great deal to say not only about the appalling conditions faced by orphans in Russia today, but about the determination of the human spirit and the need for love that exists at the center of every human heart. Director Andrei Kravchuk brings a near-documentary quality to the film, as he focuses his camera on the details of everyday life in the orphanage and the countryside through which Vanya travels. This air of naturalism extends to the actors as well, particularly young Kolya Spiridonov, who, as Vanya, gives a performance that can only be termed extraordinary and heartbreaking. After this film and the brilliant "The Return," I'm convinced that Russia has some of the finest child actors in the business. Indeed, there is nothing less than a superb performance in the entire film.
"The Italian" is a film tuned to the realities of life in a harsh environment, where cruel and violent deeds often share the stage with acts of random kindness. Vanya's epic adventure provides more than ample opportunity for him to experience both, but it is the magnanimity he encounters at the hands of strangers that lingers longest in memory.
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