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Laughter and Grief by the White Sea (1987)

Smekh i gore u Bela morya (original title)
Several Russian Pomorsk men who live by the White Sea have brought in their boats for the evening and are relaxing inside a fisherman's hut. One of them says "there has been so much untruth... See full summary »



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Several Russian Pomorsk men who live by the White Sea have brought in their boats for the evening and are relaxing inside a fisherman's hut. One of them says "there has been so much untruth told about our region that it is time to set the record straight" and proceeds to tell a variety of outrageous tall tales (based on traditional folklore of the Russian north). As the evening gets later, the tales turn more serious. Written by Niffiwan

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Release Date:

1987 (Soviet Union)  »

Also Known As:

Смех и горе у Бела моря  »

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Did You Know?


The first six stories, without the introductory and connecting sequences, were previously released in three separate films (in 1977, 1979 and 1986). The last story, "Ivan and Adrian", was also released as a separate short film in 1987 under the name "Pomorskaya Byl". "Eternal Icebergs" and "Frozen Songs" were also released separately at this time, even though they had been part of previous films. See more »


Edited from Volshebnoe koltso (1982) See more »


Severnye zvony
Written and Performed by Ivan Danilov
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User Reviews

"Of our Arkhangelsk region, so much untruth and silliness is told that I've resolved to tell the whole simple truth."
23 December 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

What I've come to love about Soviet animated films is that many of them say something profound about the culture of their land, or at least tell the story in a way that evokes the mood of a classic folk tale. The little-known animated feature, 'Smekh i gore u Bela morya {Laughter and Grief by the White Sea} (1987),' tells its story in such a way, as an old and wizened Pomor fisherman recounts a selection of unlikely historical anecdotes to a few attentive listeners. The hour-long film was directed by Leonid Nosyrev and produced at the Soyuzmultfilm studio, and was compiled from various new and previously-released animated shorts. As an aggressive storm rages outside the seaside cottage, located on the edge of the White Sea, the old man sits back in his homely lodgings and regales the younger fisherman with assorted tall tales, despite resolving to "tell the whole simple truth."

Early in the film, the stories are laced with all the "untruth and silliness" of which the old fisherman previously spoke so disapprovingly, and he recounts the past daily lifestyles of people in the region, whether they be selling "eternal icebergs" to prospective brides, or packaging beautiful women's songs {frozen solid by the -500º temperatures} for exportation to warmer lands to be enjoyed by the rich and sophisticated. The tone of these stories is initially very light-hearted, bordering on slapstick: the polar bears are employed to assist with daily business of the people, and a brown bear – covered with flour – attempts to sneak into town to sell some food of his own, only to have his brown feet betray his true identity. Even the penguins come north every year to make a profit, despite usually lurking on the opposite side of the globe.

Also on the agenda is the fable of Ivan, the warm-hearted peasant who saves the life of a sacred snake and so inherits a magic ring, only to have it stolen from him by a deceitful princess. Luckily, the adorable dog and cat whom Ivan also adopted {by giving away his clothing, despite needing it to acquire food for himself and his mother} find a way to repay the kindness that has been shown to them. The old fisherman also offers two other tall tales from his own life, about a stressed wife whose scream is fierce enough to cut down trees, and a fumbled orange fruit that thrives into a massive underwater tree. The animation in these sequences is very well done, despite working with a presumably low budget, and there are many moments when you simply sit back and admire the craftsmanship of the artists.

If the preceding stories are simply very good animated sequences, then the final tale is an absolute masterpiece. As the night wears on, the old fisherman moves on to a more solemn fable, that of Ivan and Adrian, two fisherman brothers who became stranded on a small ocean island and so spent their final weeks carving out their epitaphs on a block of driftwood. This sequence is one of the most powerful animated moments I've yet seen: as their mother sings a passionate prayer across the ocean, the two brothers wait patiently for their time to pass, and two graceful geese symbolically return to the coast. Though you'd expect that such a tale would seem out-of-place amongst such an outrageously ridiculous collection of stories, it sums up the entire film perfectly, reflecting both the happy and sad moments in the region's culture. Once again, my greatest appreciation to the IMDb user Niffiwan, who not only alerted me to this film's existence, but also posted a fully-translated copy on the internet.

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