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In 1946, a soldier fathers a child then dies before its birth. Jump to 1952: on a train, the child and his mother meet a handsome soldier who makes a play for her. She accepts. Posing as a married family, the soldier finds them a rooming house where he becomes everyone's favorite through his good looks and generosity. Meanwhile he gives the boy, Sanya, lessons in life: to fight back, to win at all costs. The child's mother, Katya, is head-over-heels in love with Tolyan, the soldier, but the relationship becomes rocky when Tolyan's true plans for the rooming house become clear. It starts them on a treadmill of flight that risks Katya's life, Tolyan's liberty, and Sanya's trust.Written by
[All trivia items for this title are spoilers.]
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Sanya - 48 Years Old:
I was born right after the war, in 1946. My mother was going to the village where her relatives lived and gave birth to me right on the road. I never saw my father. He was covered with wounds when he returned from the war and died six months before I was born, but throughtout my childhood I kept thinking of him, trying to imagine him.
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The Russian release features an additional 14 minutes at the end which depict Sanya as an adult. After he shoots Tolyan, the film cuts directly to modern times where Sanya is a colonel of the Russian army. He explains that he has had to kill many times since that day and that his profession justifies it. In a war-torn village, he mistakes an old man for Tolyan. He embraces the old vagrant, who dies in his arms. Upon inspection of his back, he finds that there is no Panther tattoo. It is not Tolyan. As he leaves the village in his own personal staff car, he takes off his shirt. At this point Russian audiences see for the first time that Sanya has a Panther tattoo identical to Tolyan's on his back. (Some non-Russian versions finished the film with a shot of Sanya at 12 lying in his bunk with this tattoo. Russians did not see that scene.) The original Russian version ends with a flashback to Sanya at 6 peering out the window of the train and seeing his father waving to him on the back of a passing railcar. It is rumored that 'Pavel Chukhraj' cut the non-Russian versions for two reasons. First, he wanted to make it shorter and more attractive to foreign critics and film festivals. He also felt it might confuse and complicate the meaning of the film for viewers not familiar with modern Russia. See more »
For those of us who are interested in Russian life and film this is a must see. It provides an inside view of life in Stalinist Russia where people are forced to live in communal apartments and struggle to survive. A single mother with a young son becomes enamoured of a man she believes to be a soldier. He turns out to be a burglar preying on the unfortunate. The story is told by the son who first hates, then loves, then hates the thief. Amazingly, the viewer experiences the same shifting emotions. This is a film that will involve you and really play on your emotions. It's as though Dostoyevsky wrote the screenplay. No stereotypes or two-dimensional characters here but complex individuals who will draw you into their fear and pain. It is an unforgettable film; well worth seeking out!
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