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During WWII in a small village outpost, a commander has his troop replaced by an all female unit. As they finally begin to appreciate one another, German paratroopers are spotted nearby and the realities of war emerge.
A detachment of the Red Army led by Commissar Yevsyukov is moving along the sands of the Central Asian desert, pursued by whites, dying of thirst. Forty killed officers were on the battle account of the best shooter of the Maryutka detachment. In the last battle to capture the caravan, the white lieutenant Govorukha-Otrok was taken prisoner, sent on a diplomatic mission from Admiral Kolchak to General Denikin. The soldiers are trying to return to their own, fighting the hostile desert. Finally, they go to the coast of the Aral Sea, where Maria, Govorukha-Otrok and several fighters take a boat to reach the mainland. All Red Army soldiers die during a storm, and Maria and Lieutenant are thrown alone on the island.Written by
Watching this I was reminded of Hollywood Westerns of the mid-1950s, with the saturated color and framing of faces for psychological effect. The constant orchestral score was sometimes unnecessary and somewhat annoying; but as an interview with the director points out, the idea wasn't a grim war story, or even a political screed, but a love story, where sweeping music isn't out of place; and this is a love story.
The scenes with the nomads are striking and unforgettable; the desert sequences are also memorable, as is most of the film.
Much of the acting could be considered somewhat overwrought, with people flinging themselves down on the ground and making exaggerated gestures, so much so it almost seemed a modernized film with silent movie performances.
For those unfamiliar with the original novella, it may not matter, but the movie stays quite close to the story.
Honestly, this movie does seem dated, but is well worth the time for several scenes of honest beauty and some decent-enough acting performances. And, I have to admit, while I watched the majority of the film with more or less dispassionate interest, I was unprepared for the rifle shot at the end. It's much, MUCH more shocking than I expected, and if only for that reason, this movie sticks in my head.
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