A Long and Happy Life
- 1h 17min
Sascha lives in a village on the Kola Peninsular in northern Russia and dedicatedly manages what is left of an old collective farm. He gets on well with his farm workers who respect him and ... Read allSascha lives in a village on the Kola Peninsular in northern Russia and dedicatedly manages what is left of an old collective farm. He gets on well with his farm workers who respect him and tolerate his clandestine love-affair with Anya.Sascha lives in a village on the Kola Peninsular in northern Russia and dedicatedly manages what is left of an old collective farm. He gets on well with his farm workers who respect him and tolerate his clandestine love-affair with Anya.
We witness several scenes in the local government office, where administrators seem very eager to finalize the eviction. I'm sure that several underlying hints about self-serving public servants (and hence corruption) went past us, unknowingly how such things are normally arranged in that area. Yet, it got stuck in our memory as an important theme, especially when halfway the story we meet the buyer of Sascha's land, who turned out to be the same person we saw in the government office on the other side of the counter.
Sascha's workers at first agree on defending the land they all work on, against the immanent dispossession. In spite of his initial inclination to sign the necessary papers, to accept the compensation he is promised, and to start a new life elsewhere with his girl friend, Sascha then changes course and decides to defy what the administration has prepared for him. Of course, he is told in so many words that he fights a battle he can only loose, and that the decisions are already taken on the highest levels, but he persists against all "wise" advice.
Towards his overly loyal workers, Sascha shows himself thankful. He even offers them help where he can when they need any. Along that line he lends one of them a considerable amount (he has to borrow it himself) to deal with a car accident. Later on, that same worker leaves anyway, pressured by his wife who sees no future in the planned resistance. And another worker leaves, taking with him a tractor as compensation for not being paid. This is a definite setback, since the tractor can hardly be missed for working on the land.
We observe an eroding process, more or less like the proverbial rats leaving a sinking ship. In an attempt to rescue the situation, Sascha approaches the prospective buyer of his land and proposes to pay rent and thus extend his presence through at least the potato harvest . At that moment he discovers the buyer is one of those working in the administration office. This at least shows us a negative side of the local bureaucracy, most probably demonstrating corruption as a standard operation procedure in those areas.
Later on, a group of remaining workers admit they were morons to resist the government, thereby defeating their former common stance to defend the land even by force. Eventually we see Sascha alone left behind, still stubbornly refusing to leave the premises. When the new land owner arrives, accompanied by a police officer, carrying some papers to sign, the story takes a dramatic turn and leaves only losers in the end.
All in all, this film clearly makes his point about how a vast country as Russia is (mis)governed, where local administrators don't act like public "servants" (mind the quotes), and many other things along this line about Russia we read in our Western newspapers. Of course, it still is a large country, and it cannot be avoided that the left hand not always knows what the right hand does. Whether all this is incidental or structural, we cannot verify from a large distance, yet it seems a common theme in many contemporary movies about this country.
As far as casting and acting is concerned, I find Sascha the most remarkable performer. In no way he looks like the "boss" he actually is, as he simply lacks the build for it. But he is addressed as such by his workers who apparently respect him, though he does not speak and move as someone in charge. Anyway, you won't get an inside view in the minds of these people, neither Sascha nor his girl friend nor his workers. Why they do what they do, will remain a secret for us, and some extra hints for our understanding of their inner motives would improve this film a lot.
Last but not least, the harsh landscape where this drama is located, is an important aspect of this movie. It emphasizes in pictures (better than a thousand words) under which conditions these people work and live, and still are happy with their life as it is and stick to it as long as possible. In other words, it is indeed a world very different from ours. All the above gives you many reasons to go and see this movie.
- Feb 22, 2013