Third part in Aleksandr Sokurov's quadrilogy of Power, following Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2001), focuses on Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Japan's defeat in World War II when he is finally confronted by General Douglas MacArthur who offers him to accept a diplomatic defeat for survival.
A father and his son live together in a roof-top apartment. They have lived alone for years in their own private world, full of memories and daily rites. Sometimes they seem like brothers. ... See full summary »
A slow and poignant story of love and patience told via a dying mother nursed by her devoted son. The simple narrative is a thread woven among the deeply spiritual images of the countryside... See full summary »
A 19th century French aristocrat, notorious for his scathing memoirs about life in Russia, travels through the Russian State Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years.
(A 54:24) In Malika's house, Malika invites Alexandra to take her jacket off. Alexandra does so laboriously. 20 seconds later she's suddenly wearing it again, and works her way out of it once more. See more »
What an absolutely magnificent, overwhelming and ultimately satisfying
film this is.
Sokurov stated he had never written his own screenplay before, but felt
it his duty to write a film for Vishnevskaya, partly to honor her as a
great actress, but also to hopefully expiate his sins as a young man
who said nothing, did nothing while people like Vishnevskaya and
Rostropovich openly decried the soviet regime and their belief in
democracy and human freedom generally.
Few people make more beautiful looking films than Sokurov, and
"Alexandra" is no exception, despite its location and subject matter.
Shot in the barren wastelands of war ravaged Chechnyan border,
Sokurov's ever changing palette moves from brilliantly captured colors
(a tree's leaves rustling in the breeze against a dusty background) to
dreamlike darkness, black and white and sepia tone - the visual
equivalent of a symphony or sonata. I always forget how frustrated I
become at the beginning of one of his films because his soundscapes
always begin almost inaudibly, the ear straining to catch bits of
dialogue that seem almost not there. It's an effect which ultimately
works drawing the viewer into the world he's creating, not unlike one's
initial inability to figure out what's going on when entering a party
There is not much to the story: an old woman, going to visit her long
absent grandson, Denis, an army captain, at his base camp on the
Chechnyan border. After an arduous journey she arrives to the camp, a
makeshift military tent village and settles in as images of her journey
pass through her mind (this happens frequently throughout). She awakens
to find Denis asleep and a truly touching reunion ensues, as he parades
her through the camp watching the soldiers going about their mundane
duties. Denis is often gone, but the base soldiers stare at and
interact with this independent, feisty, rule-breaking old lady and we
sense the soldiers' longing for home and love. A day long journey to a
Chechen village to buy cigarettes and cookies for the soldiers, finds
her in a pitiful marketplace and at the point of exhaustion, where she
is befriended by another old woman, the rest of the villagers
fascinated by this "foreigner." Vishnevskaya's performance is nothing
short of astonishing as is her physical appearance: stripped of elegant
costumes, hair color, and make up, her crusty, tired old Russian
grandmother still radiates an undeniable beauty, and Sokurov's camera
frequently lingers on it. That face, at once world weary, angry,
frightened somehow almost always registers a kind of hope that infuses
the entire film. Alexandra mumbles - constantly, even when no one's
around, or her grandson has left their quarters, an almost endless
monologue. Scenes of her wandering the camp, the roads, shuffling along
in her old lady shoes, complaining of her bad legs is precisely the
type of thing that would bore one to tears in most films, but here, oh
there is something underneath all of that.
Sokurov's uses his usual casting tricks and lights his actors with a
radiance that everyone - even angry young men - look beatific, with a
belief that everyone really IS beautiful. There is a bit of naiveté in
such thinking and that (for me) is what makes all of the films I've
seen of his, seem "more than a movie," but never preachy. The actor
portraying Denis really could be Alexandra's grandson as when they sit
together on his cot, their faces are so similar it's uncanny.
"Alexandra" is a war movie that never shows a single fight scene but
rather the "real" price of war and in so doing, is a powerful,
sometimes heartbreaking statement.
The movie is almost overloaded with moments of extreme tenderness and
poignancy - which against the ravaged, brutal and stark background,
makes them all the more moving. Alexandra's new Chechen friend asks a
teenage neighbor boy to accompany her on the walk back to the base and
their brief conversation is one of the film's most powerful moments,
when he asks "why won't you let us be free?" "If only it were that
simple, my boy," telling him the first thing we should ask God for is
intelligence . . . strength does not lie in weapons or in our hands."
The movie is filled with these little pearls that could almost be
cliché, but not when uttered by this remarkable old woman.
The scene of her last night with Denis almost undid me completely . . .
never mind "almost" it did just that. Only 90 minutes, the movie felt
even shorter and I can't recall a recent film that had me smiling and
near tears so many times with so seemingly "little" to it. A truly
remarkable achievement by a wonderful filmmaker and an 81 year old
actress in her first non-singing film. I hope others will take the time
to see what may be Sokurov's most human film to date.
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