Dersu Uzala (1975)
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It doesn't matter if you like any other Kurosawa's works or any other 'Russian' films, because this one would touch you so much that you would go back and looked for similar films I wish I could see this film in all his beauty: on a big screen, in the original format (70 mm), as I felt that I missed a lot of details from the TV format.
There are directors and there is Kurosawa, there are dramas and there are Russian stories, so when you put both of them together, what do you get? Dersu Uzala!
Enjoy it, at least as much I did
Set in the forests of Siberia in the 19th century, Dersu Uzala is one of the most important films about friendship ever made. It tells the story of Captain Vladimir Arseniev (Yuri Solomine) as he leads an expedition through the woods. While his group is camping one night, a small mountain man named Dersu Uzala (Maxim Munzuk) comes across the men and agrees to act as their guide. The friendship between Dersu and Vladimir grows over the years and Vladimir urges Dersu to return to the city with him but the latter always refuses. Finally Dersu agrees to go, but finds that it is a very difficult adjustment to make.
This was the first Kurosawa film that I ever saw and it amazed me in so many ways. The beautiful landscapes, the well-developed characters, and most importantly, the great friendship between Dersu and Vladimir make this one of my favorite films.
The film gives us accounts of one Russian captain's friendship with Dersu.They are together through thick and thin and Dersu even rescues him from a blizzard when they are stuck on a frozen lake.Dersu has all the natural senses and therefore knows when he is in danger.He knows everything by looking and observing the landscape around him.
So when he kills the tiger,its like a spell has been cast on him.Or is it just his imagination?His people believe in a ghost that rules the taiga,Kanga.He thinks Kanga will punish him in some way.Soon his fears start to get real.He cant kill his prey for food that he needs for living because his eyesight dramatically worsens.One frightening night(my favorite scene) it gets too much for him,listening to the howling wind in the dark,waiting for Kanga to send a tiger to kill him.And captain Arseniev,seeing the horror that struck him,offers him to come with him to his hometown.It happens so.
Throughout the film,you cant help but wonder what will happen to Dersu.Not only because in the beginning Arseniev searches for his grave,in retrospection,but also because he is one lonely,sad man who lives only by hunting.There is no place for him but the taiga.And when the tragedy happens,its hard not to feel remorse and pity the old Dersu.His world has come crashing down.The end specially is painful and shows that there is no mercy in this world for a man who falls from grace in his own homeground.
In the end,this film has outstanding photography,outstanding music,outstanding cast,beautiful scenery and do i need to say anything about the director? A timeless work that can never be surpassed.
Dersu Uzala is a poignant tale of human bonding of trust, friendship and adoration between two contrasting individuals: a nomadic hunter and an army explorer. Captain Arseniev and his troops are on a topographic expedition and while camping during a night, they come across Dersu, who happens to be an aboriginal (Goldi) tribesman. Being fully aware of the handicap of being in a remote and tricky territory and of the indispensability of having an indigene in the ranks, Arseniev asks Dersu to be their guide. Dersu being humbled by Arseniev's courtesy obliges his offer almost immediately. We soon witness a great sense of camaraderie developing between the two of them as Dersu rises in status from being a comrade to a stalwart and a friend in the eyes of the captain. The long years of experience had equipped Dersu with a great sense of intuition and psychic-like abilities to anticipate change and danger. Dersu uses his skills to good effect as he maneuvers captain and his troops through the harsh Siberian terrain, sheltering and guarding them from the cruelties and wilderness of the Tundra. Behind the façade of a rugged hunter, we see a man of profound intellect and deep compassion in Dersu which is most conspicuous in his respect for the old Chinese and his selflessness in rescuing Captain Arseniev and one of his men. After the expedition is over, Arseniev embraces Dersu and bids him farewell as Dersu returns to the wilderness. Few years later, when Arseniev returns to Siberia on another expedition, he once again encounters Dersu, who again proves to be handy, only this time round he appears to be aging really fast as time, which can be a great healer as well as a great leveler, had begun to take a toll on the Goldi. His eyesight deteriorates under the superstitious effect of a self-imposed curse after having killed a Siberian tiger, which the Goldis worship, in an act of self-defence. Arseniev, in his pitied adoration for Dersu, takes him to the city to live with his family. Arseniev's son gets greatly attached to Dersu and his story-telling abilities, but Dersu finds it difficult to adapt to the relatively restricted and significantly tamed urban life and soon realizes that his life has been reduced to that of a captive. He implores the captain to let him return to the wilderness of the woods. With great reluctance, Arseniev grants him the permission to leave, but not before presenting his savior with a brand new rifle as a parting gift and a souvenir. Few months later, Arseniev receives a letter informing him that a dead body of a Goldi has been found with no identification on it barring Arseniev's visiting card. As Arseniev pays a visit to the place of burial, he identifies the dead Goldi to be none other than Dersu Uzala. The investigating officer speculates the Goldi's brand new rifle might have lured someone into killing him.
Dersu Uzala is not just a movie, but is an experience of a lifetime. Dersu Uzala is the only movie that Akira Kurosawa shot in a language other than Japanese and he proved it once and for all that cinema at its most pristine, knows no bounds or barriers. Kurosawa uses his auteurist mastery to bring the memoirs of Russian explorer, Vladimir Arsenyev to life as he inexplicably metamorphoses cinema to new levels of poignancy and pristineness. The cinematography is breathtakingly picturesque and it evokes a sense of melancholy that makes the majestic Siberian wilderness appear hypnotic and at times, surreal. The panoramic shot of Dersu and Arseniev looking at the horizon caparisoned with the juxtaposition of the setting sun and the rising moon is also indicative of their respective lives: Dersu is long past his prime and there is no hope for revival, but Arsieniev's is still in his prime and has a promising career ahead. Dersu Uzala is strongly suggestive of the sole consistency in human life: change. It also demonstrates the might of nature as an unforgiving force, strong enough to humble even the most savage of the creatures. Dersu Uzala can also be termed as an allegorical account of the environmental imbalance that unrestrained human intervention is causing.
Dersu Uzala, besides being one of Kurosawa's greatest masterpieces is one of those rare cinematic gems which can be relished again and again, each time with a completely different perspective. It's a must watch for everyone who loves and understands cinema. 10/10
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The understanding and bonding that develops between the two men Arseniev and Dersu is wonderful to see, and over two hours holds your attention with expertly observed minutiae of character and scenic interplay. The last ten minutes cover a lot of ground (no pun intended) but it's all so logical and sad that I always need to see the end credits to recover.
So many marvellous scenes: the tiger in the forest in the morning; the phlegmatic reclusive old Chinaman; the raft; wispy blue shaded smoke from night-fires; the conclusion of course; the view of those two great men, the Moon and the Sun in the same shot. Not everyone would like Dersu, their most likely comments being "boring" - but how wrong they are they'll never know!
A film not fit to lick Dersu Uzala's metaphorical boots (or even Plan 9 from Outer Space's for that matter), Blazing Saddles was filmed the same year in America and a generation on still gets more praise than this poetic masterpiece!
Of all of his films, Dersu Uzala is my favorite. It is also one of my favorite films by anybody. It was done shortly after Akira had went through a very dark time in his life and had attempted suicide. It was his first film afterwards and the content of the film appears to reflect more than a little of his mindset at the time. Dersu Uazla is both a feel good film and also a sad film. It touches the way that people as they grow older have a more and more difficult time adapting to life as it changes and has its affect on them. The end of the film can certainly show light on the inhumanity that appears to be growing more prevalent in our society. But, I think what you remember from the film is the love between two individuals, and that is what feels good.
Many of Kurosawa's films have a great deal of spectacle, and he is perhaps known best for his Samarai films. There is none of that in this movie. Dersu Uzala is a statement by Akira of life. Akira was fighting to keep making films and was not having an easy time of it. If Akira Kurosawa could not make films, he could not feel that he was living. As a result, he attempted suicide. He survived to make this film plus many others that we all enjoy today. Dersu Uzala may be the most important of his films and the one that shows the great director's true personality. Just perhaps, it shows more about humanity than any of his other films. Again, it is my favorite.
To give an idea of who Dersu Uzala is to someone who hasn't seen the film, picture Yoda without the ability to lift objects with his mind and to kick ass with a light-saber, but still contains all of the direct wisdom and strength that make him one with his surroundings (and, as well, uses his own kind of 'force' for knowledge and defense, and for attack as an ultimately final resort). As a lonesome hunter and drifter with a family tragically lost, Dersu comes upon a team of explorers led by Captain Aseniev (Yuri Solomon, not the best performance but sturdy enough to sustain the physical scenes). He goes along with them as a guide of the sights and smells and feelings that the others just can't sense (out of lack of experience). Aseniev and Dersu end up becoming friends as they brace a torrid windstorm over a bare, wintry landscape, as Kurosawa brings out one of his towering sequences (topping anything David Lean could've drummed up for sure).
It's always of interest to me to see characters doing things on screen, having to go against the elements that almost dwarf them in the face of nature (i.e. Cast Away's hour and a half second act). Dersu Uzala seems to be of few words and mostly actions, and soon gains respect and admiration after an odd introduction to the team- he shoots with a keener than keen eye, he spots tracks, he sets up protection in the harshest of conditions, and is always a step ahead of the pack. And bringing all this out is actor Maksim Munzuk, who appears here (like Falconetti in Passion of Joan of Arc) in the performance of a lifetime out of an otherwise obscure and small career. Munzuk never brings anything to Dersu that isn't in his character, and he makes at least a quarter of the film's success a reality (the other three-quarters could be attributed to Kurosawa alone). He can be tough, smart, funny (in an off-beat way), and if nothing else, humble. But more than anything, Munzuk makes Dersu seem alive in a way no other actor could've accomplished, and also brings out the better in Solomon's performance.
The story itself has a superb appeal most of the way, but it is in it's last act that 'Derzu Uzala' reaches an intensely tragic plane. Dersu does something (which I won't reveal here and has been discussed elsewhere on the message board) that brings great shame to his own self-worth. In this part of the film, Kurosawa brings out what can be said to be some of the saddest moments in any of his work, however not without logic. While it was likely a major dramatic function in the novel, Kurosawa doesn't just throw these last twenty minutes or so to let steam flow out of the picture. I sensed something almost cathartic about these scenes, that rose the qualities of the rest of the story to a higher level, to one of almost spiritual in nature. It's hard to really pin-point to one who has not seen the film (and, indeed, I have seen the film all of one time). But once its over, you may feel you have seen a work far more rewarding than imaginable- even in awe.
Simple, gentle gold hunter-guide Munzuk teaches Russian explorer Solomine the rules of survival in Siberia; they develop mutual respect and friendship.
The acting by Maksim Munzuk is wonderful and this is one of Kurosawas
You never forget this amazing film.
The cinematography is spectacular (Kurosawa--need I say more?) and the story is so well told. The story is both obvious and subtle at the same time. The old man guides them and they survive. Also the old man represents the ways of the hills--even represents the hills and wilderness itself--and we see how he fails to fit in with civilization and progress. It is a story of great triumph and great sorrow. It it does not move you, then you are truly dead inside.
Kurosawa, one of the greatest film directors of the 20th century, made his final masterpiece with film. The characters are well drawn, the sub-text of the story (the clash of civilization vs. nature) is nuanced, but most of all it is the wild beauty of nature which is the focus of this film. Once you see it, I don't think you will forget it, I know I never have.
Faced with such unpromising material as a story about the friendship between a Russian army officer and an aging hunter, set in Siberia in the early 1900's, most film-makers would run screaming for cover. Kurosawa revels in the story, and creates a true cinematic masterpiece.
While the heart of the film is the human relationship between the "Capitan" and Dersu, the main star of the film is the Siberian wilderness itself. Rarely can such loving care have been lavished on ensuring that the natural beauty of a location comes through onto the celluloid. Some of the scenes have to be seen to be believed: the group round the campfire with the river in the background and the wind whipping up; the sequence where the captain and Dersu have to cut reeds to make a shelter as night falls and a storm approaches; the night-time scene (I kid you not!) of the group dragging a sledge across an icy waste.
The simple story of exploration, man versus nature, and the evolution of a true friendship is both thought-provoking and deeply touching. The tiny Maksim Munzuk is superb as the title character and Yuri Solomin is a study of restraint in the role of Captain Vladimir Arseniev (upon whose actual journals the story is based).
This is one of those rare films that you can watch twice back-to-back, or at any time to restore your belief that, in addition to being a means of mass entertainment, movies really can be an art form as well.
The friendship between the two main characters grows over many years and several expeditions in the wild. Their relationship is beautifully developed and moves to an inevitable climax when Dersu and the Captain move back to the Captain's home in the city.
There is in this film a sense of the beauty, tranquility, and timelessness of nature. It takes place at a time in the early part of the last century when people had closer ties with nature and felt a kinship with animals, plants, and the elements. Dersu endearingly refers to all elements of nature including the river, the wind, the trees, and the animals as "men". As the English writer, Hugh Trevor-Roper said of Shakespeare so it is true of Dersu, "He sees mankind almost as part of nature, sometimes basking in a delightful, smiling Nature; sometimes caught up in a fierce, cruel, inexorable, insatiable Nature".
I was totally absorbed in this film and in its regard for the essential goodness of man and the beauty of the natural world. Dersu Uzala is a great film from one of the all-time masters.
This has to be one of the most beautiful looking films put to screen that I have ever seen. The landscape is filled with the change of the seasons of great autumn colours, lakes that mirror great reflections, smoke over fire in a blue hue, to winter desolate landscapes and sheering sun that sets on the fateful band of men who dare to pass through the dangerous terrain.
Throw in a great bond of characters and a lesson about a time when humanity was more in touch with nature instead of trying to dominate it, a classic Kurosawa ending, and you have cinematic gold. A film not to be missed on the big screen.
Rating 9 out of 10
"Derzu Uzala" is a simple and unforgettable tale of friendship between a Russian Captain and a lonely hunter with a beautiful soul. This wonderful movie has one of the most beautiful cinematographies I have ever seen and the camera work is impressive, with awesome angle and locations that seems to be of pictures in movement. I had watched most of Akira Kurosawa movies and I do not know how I could forget to see this magnificent must-see movie of his amazing cinematography. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Dersu Uzala"
That character trait is what made Dersu so appealing to us and to his "Captain." Dursu was completely in tune with his humanity even though most people would look at him in Russian society as a barbarian. He always knew what to do and what was best in the woods. Which is actually a great deal like what the rest of the world really is, and what is best for the whole world. However, modern society, as we all know, will not embrace Dersu's beliefs. We will not give even though we have no use for the item, Dersu did. And, Dersu gave often when he could have used the item, remember the leaving of food in the shelter for others who might be in need.
SLIGHT SPOILER: The death of Dersu Usala was somehow correct. It is well that it happened as soon as it did as he went to converse with the Chinaman. Dersu didn't have to suffer. Dersu could no longer survive in the woods. Modern society had no place for him as he could not support its behavior. Dersu was honest about life, about himself, and saw things absolutely clearly. It is sorta sad that a gift caused his demise but as I said above, he possibly gave him a more humane death that the slow starvation he was facing. The only real sadness is that his grave was lost to someone who truly loved him.
It is an absolutely beautiful story that is true to its characters. It is really sad that Hollywood cannot bring out stories about the goodness in humanity rather than how to kill each other with as much flashy aplomb as possible. As near a perfect film as I have ever seen.
This movie, however, has another plus: The scenery, filmed in Siberia. Outstanding film!
Despite the cast of actors unknown to westerners, this film is very much a Kurosawa vehicle, with its deep looks into the hearts of both Uzala and the Captain in their original meeting, and years later.
This ranks as one of my favorite Kurosawa films. It's at least as good as Do Des Ka Den and some of the others that portray the inner workings of men in conflict with their world.
Kurosawa's best film in color. It is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. Kurosawa takes you to the colorful and picturesque forests of Siberia; a treat to sore eyes.
Dersu, a hunter in the forest, is a true son of the forest. He converses with all the life forms and treats them as fellow men with respect and fear. The soldiers ridicule his old-fashioned behavior but the captain sees him more than his customs- as a professional hunter and a guide. Dersu leads the troop into the Siberian forests, leaves them spellbound with his perfect aiming of the gun and his ever-alert ears that would sense even the faintest of the sounds. Dersu saves the life of the captain when they get lost and are caught in a fierce storm and the design of the cave-like-structure that saved captain's life further increases the admiration the captain has towards Dersu.
Years later, the captain leads another troop on an exploration into the forest and the soldiers happen to meet Dersu. Dersu becomes a senile, crotchety codger and his sharp eyesight diminishes. He is persuaded by the captain to rest at his place in the town but he feels he doesn't fit among the fast-moving and weird world where people pay for water. He is later found dead after being killed by a thief who stole the gun gifted by the captain and the captain performs the obsequies in respect for their friendship.
Definitely not the perfect action/adventure. But I don't suppose it was meant to be such.
"People", he repeated all the time - "people" were everywhere. People were the soldiers, people were the trees, the fire, the wind, the beasts in the wood...
It amazed me enormously the idea of a man so well living with the nature (not "in"), so respecting it that it has been turned into a part of him.
A great example of how surviving does not make you necessarily mean and angry man. ...But a truly loving one.
The story, told in flashback of a Russian Captain's encounters with a Monoglian hunter named Dersu Uzala as he makes several mapping trips into Siberia.
This is a very good film. I would like to report that its a great film but its not. I enjoyed it but to me the story was lacking, I wanted to know more. I also had problems with the second half of the film which seemed to be straining to go into a man made direction instead of one that flowed naturally.
The first half flows. I was just going to take a peak at the film only to find that 45 minutes had passed as if in a blink of an eye. The second half of the film is less natural, it moves in fits toward a conclusion we know from the outset of the film, but which is arrived at via a journey that doesn't seem natural. (the events are fine, its the foreshadowing and thrust to the end that doesn't work.) Technically this is a beautiful film... The march across the ice under a red setting sun is now one of my favorite images..
Don't get me wrong, I like the movie but I don't love it.
If you get a chance to see it please do so its a wonderful film, that simply disappointed me in the second half.