With the battle line far away in the east, three soldiers who have managed to escape from captivity find it difficult to hide. An old man offers to help them because one of them, the sniper, is his son.
It is August 1941. With the battle line far away in the east, three soldiers who have managed to escape from captivity find it difficult to hide: the territory is occupied by the enemy. The local woods are not safe: you can easily get embogged. Are the villagers loyal? Nobody can say. There is an old man who offers to help them. Is he reliable enough? He may kill them or report them to the local German authorities. Anything may happen, but one of them, the sniper, is his son who is his youngest, his dearest.Written by
2004, June - XXVI Moscow International Film Festival - The main prize "Golden George" for the best film of the festival. See more »
On the rifle Mosin for some reason installed a modern sight from the carbine Tiger. See more »
Where surviving in war is not only thing on a soldier's mind.
War is about a lot of things; mostly, though, it's about daily survival for those involved. That, essentially, is what this story is about and hence no different to other war stories.
Being set somewhere in the Soviet Union of 1941, though, makes it different for non-Russians: the landscape is new, seemingly limitless, gray skies, barely inhabited, bleak in parts, lush forests in others, almost like another planet; and all filmed with de-saturated color that just makes it look all the more forbidding. Hence, against such a savage and unforgiving landscape, the trifles of the hapless and disparate trio of soldiers who arrive unannounced at a remote village seem hardly worth bothering about.
The youngest of the three, however, knows more than the other two because this is his village, the place where he grew up and where his father is a local official who manages to tread the fine line between accommodating the demands of German occupation forces while also trying to help the three – particularly his son – to evade recapture. Needless to say, that's a dangerous game the old man plays and especially when he must also deal with the local police who are looking for the escaped soldiers.
Add to that mix, there is the young local woman whom the son wishes to wed; and, to add to the old man's worries, the tough leader of the threesome falls in love with the old man's much younger wife. Such gratitude, indeed! The third soldier is physically sick much of the time, and is cared for by the old man and his woman; so, the sick one spends much of his time, coughing, moaning and lying in bed – and yet, he plays the most crucial role in the whole story towards the end.
From one perspective, soldiers always want and need to survive; yet, from another, there is the basic human need to connect to another. It's that aspect which is explored and developed by the writer and director within a setting that is barely conducive to fighting, let alone staying alive. It's a tour de force in acting from actors I've not seen before.
Productions standards are high: from the opening, gritty and horrific battle scenes to the pictures of typical domestic rural life – if not tranquility – within the Russian ark. Having been hugely entertained by Kukushka (2002) and The Return (2003), there is no doubt that only Russians are needed to make excellent Russian movies. This one is equally worth seeing.
Not for children, of course, and highly recommended.
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