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I saw this at the Toronto film festival on September 11, 2010, under
the title, "The Edge". I walked in prepared for a heavy dose of Russian
gloom. I like Russian literature, especially Chekhov, but I'm always
reminded of these lines from a David Massengill song: "What's wrong
with the Russians? Have you read their novels? They all die in
brothels." In this case, there is nothing wrong with the Russians. This
movie grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. Don't get me wrong,
this is not a lighthearted movie; it has serious subject matter and
complex issues that the characters must deal with . . . and there is
plenty of gloom to go around.
Here is the situation in Siberia: At the beginning of World War II, while Stalin and Hitler were still honoring their non-aggression pact, Germans and Russians were co-existing in a remote labor camp. Eventually, Stalin sends his thugs to oust the Germans and declare the Russian inhabitants to be collaborators. At this point the film opens with a young girl running for her life. Four years later, the fighting is over and a Soviet war hero has arrived to work on the town's steam engine. The only Germans left are the illegitimate child of one of the Russian women . . . and don't forget that running girl.
I found myself missing some of the subtitles because I could not take my eyes of the compelling characters and the actors who play them. The standouts are Vladimir Mashkov as the hero and Anjorka Strechel and Yulia Peresild as the women who love/hate him. But his true passion is the steam engine, which he races through the snowy Siberian woods.
The steam locomotive chase sequences are the best put on film since Buster Keaton spectacularly crashed a Union train into Oregon's Rock River in The General (1927). It's as though director Uchitel is rebuilding the train and the bridge Keaton destroyed eight decades ago and a half a world away.
Unlike Keaton's masterpiece, which should have won an Oscar in 1927, this film is Russia's entry into the 2010 Best Foreign Film Oscar competition.
Saw the film last night at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica as part of a special Golden Globe viewing. The subject matter of German/Russian relationships, especially during WWII were some of the darkest moments in either countries histories, so this is not an easy subject for film. I was expecting something dark and brutal, which was not the case. This film utilizes black humor very well, akin to the Czech Film Divided We Fall, but it is not a comedy. The relationship between Germany and Russia before, during, and after WWII, including what the governments want us to believe is skilfully examined via the universal truths of the human experience of the characters in the film. Although this is a Russian film, this does not mean the film is any less relevant to a German audience. You do not need to know a lot of Russian German History to understand the film, but there is one key date you do need to know, that is June 1941, when Germany broke the alliance with Russia and invaded. Great film, hope it wins.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will not get into details about the movie itself - I like it a lot
obviously. I will just try to answer some of the questions raised by
some of the people that gave relatively low grade as they obviously did
not understand a lot about the movie (probably due to bad subtitles or
lack of enough attention) which I, being someone with good
understanding in Russian and having quite good Bulgarian subtitles,
-This is not a Gulag! This is free labor camp - much different. People there are not imprisoned, are being cared about (clothed, fed relatively good and not harassed to death) while working for the state for something (wood harvesting and transporting I think). The idea is there the "spoiled" collaborationists to be reformed in the right attitude and habits for the "new" society.
- There is a train in the camp as this is the end of the railroad, this is the last station (hence the pun in the title "Kray" which in English means "End"). The locomotive is needed for keeping the railroad clean from snow during the winter and for transporting the harvested wood (second clearly seen in the movie and the first also explained in the film).
- The hitting is not without a reason, but it will take more than couple of lines to explain why for each case. Probably it is hard to understand for people that are not acquainted with the Russian/Soviet "Great Motherland war" (I am not sure if the translation is officially correct though) and the attitude of the whole nation towards the German invaders and the people who supported, helped or even tolerated them (especially men), especially from people who fought on the front.
- "the main hero's girlfriend" is allowed separate room as she is the only one in the camp with a child - this is explicitly explained by her in the beginning of the movie and once again - this is not a Gulag! Please pay more attention before writing.
- About the train over the bridge - it is not something physically impossible. In fact the approach of rushing through an unstable construction instead of going slowly over it makes quite a sense - you pass through it in very short time before it has time to collapse and the inertia you have also helps. If you go slowly - you crush it under your weight.
Overall, I believe that the atmosphere and the "flavor" of the time add the place is captured very well, and the characters are very realistic. I like Russian cinema a lot and probably being Bulgarian who grew during the socialist times and had to learn Russian since lower grades (now I don't regret this) helps me to understand and "feel"better their movies and what they are trying to say. So the movie for me is very, very good and kept me under it's impression for several days (still does). I highly recommend it, especially to people from Eastern Europe.
I hope this review helps someone:)
In 1945, in the end of the World War II, the Russian war hero Ignat
(Vladimir Mashkov) is sent to a Siberian labor camp of collaborationist
to work as mechanic of the locomotive that transports wood. Ignat has a
concussion that makes him lose consciousness and loves locomotives, but
is not allowed to be a driver. Ignat meets the Russian Sofia (Yuliya
Peresild) that has a German boy named Pashka and he has a love affair
with her. When Ignat learns that there is an abandoned locomotive in
the woods, he decides to repair the vehicle. But he finds the
aggressive German girl Elsa (Anjorka Strechel) living aboard of the
train that tries to protect her abode. But Elsa ends teaming up with
Ignat and helping him to fix the locomotive and repair of the bridge to
cross the river. When Ignat returns to the labor camp, he has a love
affair with the outcast Elsa and Sofia is jealous of her. They both are
outcast and Ignat and his locomotive "Gustav" are rejected by the
dwellers and lives with Elsa in the train. But when the cruel Major
Fishman (Sergey Garmash) arrives in the camp, their lives will not be
the same again.
"Kray" is a movie with a different story about the lives of persons considered collaborationist by Stalin living in a Siberian labor camp. The relationship among the dwellers is weird since most of the men are alcoholics and the women are promiscuous. It is impressive and also comprehensible the hatred of the inhabitants of the camp and the German Elsa. Movies of the World War II are usually about the Holocaust or the bravery of Americans in the war and it is great the chance to see the fate of these people in the post-war. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Expresso Da Morte" ("Express Train of the Death")
I saw this at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival. This was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language Film category and was also Russia's official submission to the 83rd Academy Awards. From director Aleksei Uchitel and writer Aleksandr Gonorovsky, The Edge, which in Russian is Kray, meaning the end, was beautifully shot by cinematographer Yuri Klimenko with wonderful set staging by production designer Vera Zelinskaya. Essential to this film is the rapid fire sound by sound designer Krill Vasilenko and buffeted by a a great music soundtrack from Irish composer David Holmes. The story is set in the fall of 1945 at the close of WWII in a Siberian labor camp whose occupants harvest wood and produce charcoal to power the steam locomotives that traverse the Siberian wilderness. Ignat (Vladimir Mashkov) is a Russian war hero suffering from intense migraines who has been sent to the labor camp as a locomotive specialist. He starts up a relationship with Sofia (Yulia Peresild) by stealing her away from her fellow camp boyfriend. Ignat learns of a locomotive stranded in the woods and abandoned for years across the river. He hatches a plan to resurrect it to it's former glory in an anticipated race with his arch rival Major Fishman (Sergei Garmash) who is soon to replace the camps commander. While surveying the locomotive, Ignat encounters Elsa (Anjorka Strechel) a hostile German girl who has been living a feral life aboard the old train since the outbreak of the war. He soon enlists her help to free the locomotive and repair a bridge across the river and in doing so, becomes involved with her in a forbidden Russian-German love affair. It's been reported that writer Gornorovsky and director Uchitl collaborated on an astounding 100 rewrites to bring the script to film with rewrites going on as it was being filmed. It pays off in the final product. Filled with imagery such as the bear, the symbol of Russia, not Soviet Russia but Russia. In a metaphor, Russia the bear is eaten and stripped of it's hyde,cannibalized and crucified. The Edge is the edge of the world and the edge of human relations and human abilities. This is a powerful film like the locomotives it embraces and I would recommend it and give it a 9.0 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is little about THE EDGE that is not extremely well done. The setting and props are authentic and make you want to pull up a blanket to keep Siberia out. The photography and editing are topnotch; e.g., no lazy cameras, obnoxious close-ups, etc. All characters act according to their described circumstances. I'd bet the script is great but of course I was limited to subtitles. But the most intriguing item about THE EDGE is the plot; i.e., the storyline. Arguably the tale twists but whatever such may be the two lead characters are single-minded and riveted to their goals. The IMDb (and I assume the film's) poster picture is misleading as it suggests some superhero-like character with a Transformer-sized train. Such is decidedly NOT the case. However, the actual train devise becomes even more thrilling because of a plot predicament I won't give away. If I haven't already said so the male and female leads give awesome performances. I rarely gush so much about a movie but how THE EDGE slipped under the critics radar baffles me. Doctor Zhivago has nothing on this film. I predict great things for Anjorka Strechel.
I guess this film can be seen as a railroad or train film as some of
the reviewers of limited cognitive skills have already observed. And
the film's not for anyone who dislikes foreign language films (unless
you speak Russian). I love Russian films and this one did not
disappoint one bit. But I almost passed on watching it due to some
grossly shortsighted reviews left by a larger number of critics than I
would have expected.
This unpretentious film is skilfully woven with fascinating period detail from post WW2 1940s Russian life. The well researched film demonstrates understanding and depth in its commentary on Politics and life under Stalin as well as everyday peasant life, the food, clothing, the unique colloquialisms (hopefully genuine) - all were a delight to take in, and I think most who give The Edge a chance will be pleasantly surprised.
Don't look for a complex or sophisticated plot in this film, although the human qualities demonstrated are as visceral and carnal as the large brown bear which appears several times. But the storyline easily hangs together and works quite well as the period vehicle for what it was intended.
Certainly anyone with an interest in trains and locomotives, engineering or physics will enjoy this film, but I feel sorry for the critic who is unable to appreciate the many other delights which the talented director Aleksey Uchitel has given us.
This movie was rather unusual but luckily in an original kind of way. A
Russian movie, set right after WW II, in which trains play a very
central role. This doesn't really sound like your typical and average
So yes, the movie and its story in general are quite unusual and original but this still would had all meant very little if the movie wasn't a good or interesting one to watch. And luckily the movie is really an interesting watch. It actually features a very simplistic and straight-forward story in it but things get developed and handled well and add to this the fact that the movie features some great characters in it.
It really isn't a very exciting movie story- or action-wise but yet the movie still feels that way. It's because the movie has a good pace, which is probably because it's a movie in with the main character is always on the move, with or without his locomotive.
Yes, it's quite amazing, the central role that trains play in this movie. They form an important aspect of the story and sort of become characters themselves in the movie. I know there are probably plenty of train lovers out there, who will get a blast out of seeing this movie, with all types of old Soviet locomotives in it.
But also otherwise this movie has plenty to offer. It's a nice 'little' type of movie, with humane characters and realistic events and emotions, while the movie still manages to go over-the-top with things and becomes an entertaining one to watch as well. It's hard to label this movie because it's doing so much and it's doing about everything in its own way.
One thing that the movie also has really going for it is its look. It has a great and grand sort of look over it, that makes this movie feel authentic as well as slightly epic. I liked the visual style and the fact that for a change it didn't just portrayed the Siberian hinterland as a cold, white and gray, depressing sort of place. The movie is actually quite colorful, without using that much colors really, as strange as that might sound.
A good and also original watch but I really wouldn't go as far as calling this movie a great one or a must-see. It's just a tad bit too simplistic and straight-forward for that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film clearly aims to present the immediate post-WWII
Russian/Soviet landscape in a way that is not breathtakingly new, but
satisfyingly authentic for middlebrow audiences, East and West. In this
way, it reminds most of the Finno-Russian production, "The Cuckoo." The
heroes are not larger than life, no better than they need to be (when
the Russian heroine is asked why she prefers the newly arrived hero to
her former lover, she answers, "because he has more of the devil in
him"); the national prejudices create tension, project an atmosphere of
cruelty, even brutality among characters who clearly have a stake in
reaching mutual understanding. The cold is palpable, as is the
primitive living conditions. No wonder the power and beauty of the
locomotives provide romanticism and sense of adventure for all.
A large part of the suspense comes from just trying to figure out the back story and the relationships among the characters. The political atmosphere is understated enough, I think, so thoughtful audiences have something to "read between the lines," and those who want an adrenaline rush will not be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just after World War II, Ignat, a Soviet war hero, arrives at a Gulag camp in a remote section of Siberia, in order to try to handle a steam locomotive that is there. Soon he takes as his lover one of the prisoners, the pretty Sofia. Eventually, Ignat is told another locomotive is in an uninhabited forbidden island in a lake near the camp. When he goes to recover the locomotive, he finds a wild girl is living there, a German named Elsa who has been hiding there since the war started and the Russians killed her family (she is played by the pretty German actress Anjorka Strechel; unfortunately, it's hard to see her beauty in the movie since most of the time she is covered in dirt and dressed with shabby clothes). Ignat brings Elsa back to the camp in the broken locomotive, and soon sparks will fly between Elsa and Sofia for the love of Ignat. Since I love trains and snowy forests, I should have like this more, but it is hurt by very arbitrary plot points and a weak script. The train motif here seems a bit thrown in (why is there a train in the camp, anyway). I don't know if the portrayal of the Gulag camp is realistic, but in the movie it doesn't look as such a terrible place (when, in fact, hundreds of thousands of people if not millions die in the Gulag camps for otherwise treatable illnesses, malnutrition, exposure to the elements, etc.). Lots of Russian machismo in the movie as well, with the male characters hitting each other hard at the faintest of motives. The movie most memorable scene, that finally makes it worth watching, is a nude cat fight between Elsa and Sofia, with all the other naked woman in the camp watching.
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