Family saga blending with tragic events in the USSR.
Tyazhely Pesok / Heavy Sand follows an Ukrainian Jewish family over 30 years against the backdrop of dramatic events in the Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th century: WWI, the Bolshevik revolution, the pogroms in Ukraine, the Stalinist repression, WWII and Nazi occupation, the ghetto and annihilation.
It is ultimately a story about human nature, about the triumph of love against all odds (e.g. despite the seemingly incompatible backgrounds of the two lovers, Rakhil and Jakov) and of its resilience over time and circumstance. It is about family bonds, about human altruism, dignity and courage. Also about cruelty and the holocaust, a tribute to the Jews that suffered and to the non-Jews who were willing to risk their own lives to help them.
The acting is generally outstanding, as is the filming and the music. Attention to historical detail is exquisite (clothes, decors, culture ).
The script departs substantially from Rybakov's novel, on which the film is based, bringing in some different characters and scenes. I guess this was partly unavoidable, because of the novel's narrative approach, compared to the need for dialogues in the film, which had to be made up.
The series is, in my opinion, not without flaws. It combines some truly moving scenes with others that left me wondering what the point was, and thinking that 16 episodes were not needed after all. Although the characters' complexity rings true, some of the scenes seem implausible. Plus the 2 main characters hardly age throughout the film, everybody speaks Russian everywhere While the film captures much of the spirit of the book, it is weaker in many respects, including in its portrayal of Jewish suffering. Needless to say, I preferred the book, but this is almost always so. Provided you are not looking for 100% accurate history, nor 100% Rybakov's novel you may, like me, be left with a very positive overall impression.
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