A 8-year-old boy is travelling with his mother towards his grandfather, but their journey is stopped when the young woman dies of typhus in an unknown town, just as poor and in ruins as any...
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A 8-year-old boy is travelling with his mother towards his grandfather, but their journey is stopped when the young woman dies of typhus in an unknown town, just as poor and in ruins as any other on the way. However, the boy is determined to go on. Eva Neymann's film is a visual journey into a country covered in snow and left poor by war. This is a place of beautiful, deserted landscapes and people overcome by both need and greed. The tranquil black-and-white images created by Lithuanian cameraman Rimmvydas Leipus masterfully evoke the atmosphere of the Second World War's penultimate year in the Soviet Union. The picture was based on motifs drawn from the autobiographical story of the same name by writer and screenwriter Friedrich Gorenstein, who also penned the script for Tarkovsky's Solaris.Written by
In June 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and opened up a campaign of unprecedented barbarity whose statistics boggle the mind. More than 20 million Soviet soldiers and civilians died, with millions more wounded or missing. More that 2,000 towns and 17,000 villages were wholly or partly destroyed, along with all infrastructure not of immediate use to the German invaders. At the end of the war there were millions of homeless and displaced people.
The movie opens in the winter of 1944-1945, the last winter of the war in an indeterminate town of the Russian hinterland. The front is far away; the Red Army has rolled back the Nazi hordes to the boundary of Germany and is preparing the final assault on Berlin that would end the war on May 1945. The consequences of war are seen everywhere; displaced families trying to find shelter, crowded, agonizingly slow trains that plod across the desolate landscape, invalided soldiers, hospitals without resources, homeless children living by their wits and occasionally by the kindness of strangers. One of these children is the protagonist, an eight year old boy where the effects of war are plainly visible; he displays an unnatural maturity and his feelings are bottled up for survival. The ending is open; the boy's odyssey has not concluded.
Ukrainian director Eva Neymann has chosen a minimalist approach with no hint of sentimentality; we don't even know the characters' names. We feel we are observers where, as in real life, information is incomplete. Neumann, together with Lithuanian cinematographer Rimvydas Leipus captures a stark black-and-white snowy landscape with strange optical illusions; sometimes background and foreground fuse in a two- dimensional picture, other times objects stand out starkly. This is an unusual film that moves you deeply without trying. A must see.
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