The Siege of Leningrad which endured a little short of 900 days and nights under the Nazi blockade during World War Two has long been of interest to me. I have viewed extensive footage over the years and was greatly looking forward to seeing this 'new approach with never-before seen archival footage'. This is how it was billed at the 2007 Sydney Film Festival. While it may be true that this actual camera footage may not have been shown before, the subject of the shots are not new. Nevertheless, the power of the film lies in its minimalist ambient approach. No Narrator telling you what the film-maker wants you to know. No dramatic music to overlay the images. One could say that the greatest technical contribution came from the Foley artists and their effective application of natural effects. Furthermore, the long lasting shots with very little editor's intrusion, capture the tedium of everyday survival. This is a true Socialist film in that it gives centre stage to the 'common people' going about their daily lives in degenerating circumstances. The great disappointment for me is its brief length of 52 minutes covering only four seasons, and not the ten seasons of the siege. Sadly, this worthy film, with its style exemplifying minimalism and UNsensationalism at its best, shot itself in the foot by not following through with the full magnitude of the event, and pulled its punches by excluding certain horrendous aspects committed by some of the starving citizens. The film-maker's 'distant' approach assumed the viewer's familiarity with the subject . Those of us who are familiar with the subject felt short-changed. Those not familiar were confused. But still worth seeing.
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