Ali is an upper class Muslim man, whose family holds a great deal of power in Baku, Azerbaijan. At that time, before World War One, Azerbaijan was part of the Russian Empire. Nino, Ali's lover, is from neighboring Georgia and is Christian, but the two are deeply in love and elope to the countryside. The story follows the two, who get married, through World War One, which only sees some of Ali's friends sent off to war. After the Russians surrender, however, conflict comes to Baku. Ali fights the Bolsheviks with the Azerbaijani militia and Nino helps nurse wounded soldiers during the March Days massacre in Baku.Written by
Worth watching, but a lackluster adaptation of a book you MUST read
First off, the Novel "Ali and Nino" by Kurban Said is the seminal piece of modern literature for the country of Azerbaijan. It is absolutely worth reading for anyone who enjoys literature of any kind. The English translation is short, accessible, and infinitely interesting. It is a love story, a clash of cultures, and a political-historical account of how Azerbaijan was the first liberal democracy in the Muslim world ... for less than two years before the Russians decided to conquer it again.
Of course, this movie was made and financed by the current authoritarian president of Azerbaijan's family, and is put together like a PR product to western nations. It's a bit like if Ivanka Trump decided to produce an adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath" for foreign audiences. It would certainly be technically well-done, but noticeably lacking much of the substance of the source material, perhaps even missing the point of the story entirely.
The book is full of humor and nuance in the interactions of the characters. It portrays a uniquely multi-cultural society where people from the same country, living literally under the same roof think so differently about things it is like they come from opposite sides of the Earth. The movie only briefly touches on a few of these moments, and kind of lacks context and buildup when it does.
What the movie gets absolutely right, and the whole reason to bother watching the movie, is the visuals. The cinematography really captures the feel of the place, it will make you homesick if you are from there, and make you want to see it for yourself if you have never been there.
So in sum, the visual depiction of the story's setting is an 11/10, A+, outstanding result. The adaptation of the substantive bits of the story leaves A LOT to be desired. The acting is fine, and may even be great if the screenplay gave the characters more or the development and "moments" from the novel.
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