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The commander of a failed 1928 Arctic airship expedition is remembering the events of the "Italia" airship flight, crash, and subsequent rescue efforts. The "ghosts" of people involved in the events appear in his memories to assist him in determining his guilt in the affair. The reminiscences are mixed with the real action: the flight of the "Italia", the air rescue operation from Kings Bay airfield, the expedition of the "Krassin" ice-breaker. A sort of human touch is added by the ever beautiful C.C. playing Malmgren's girlfriend.Written by
E. Kocourek <email@example.com>
Some of the material for the Russian version listed the Scottish actor who plays Amundsen as "Sh. Konneri." See more »
The version released in the Soviet Union was significantly longer and featured an alternate score by composer Aleksandr Zatsepin instead of the score by Ennio Morricone used in the shorter European/American version. See more »
An English language film starring Peter Finch, Sean Connery, and Claudia Cardinale, this is nonetheless pure Kalatozov, more imbued with man's madness than Herzog. General Alberto Nobile (Finch) takes airship Italia to the North Pole in what appears to be no more than a public relations effort, with pretensions of scientific endeavour. The film is reminiscent of an earlier Kalatozov effort Neotpravlennoye pismo / The Unsent Letter (1960) in terms of there being a love interest, and also many people looking for explorers in peril and specifically in terms of the representation of joy (wacky music and speed). Kalatosov and Mosfilm were no doubt inspired by a real-life story where Uncle Joe's bestest commies manage to save a bunch of foolhardy imperialists. This seems to be a favourite theme of superior Soviet drama, and the film reminded me of the Soviet sci-fi film Nebo zovyot / Call of the Heavens (1962) in many ways, including Soviet harbour scenes of cheering crowds and self-sacrificing efforts to save the deluded. The film at least acknowledges that the first successful expedition to the North Pole was American, and so some of the revolutionary fervour I'd come to expect had diminished by this stage in Kalatosov's career. There is however a glorious purely dogmatic shot of a Russian sailor heaping coal into a furnace which has coloured him red.
The film is not condescending in that there is a genuine awe and respect for the great polar explorers. Roald Amundsen's spectral presence (played by Sean Connery) is magnetic and haunting.
Another cinematic precursor of this one may be Battle of the River Plate (1956), also starring Peter Finch, a film fascinated with the concept of historical spectacle. The actual crash is a matter of history, indicated at the start of the film and is not a spoiler. The filming of the crash is spectacular and crazy glorious cine-trauma.
Finn Malmgren is one of the most interesting characters, he has a death wish, a love of the emptiness and Arctic loneliness. I think maybe it's something that they all share. Why would anyone venture into this morass of crumbling ice otherwise?
The film is framed by a trial, Nobile trying himself, in his mind, for the disaster, this is very trippy.
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