This is a funny movie that tries hard to evoke the golden age of sexy adventure films in the 1970s. (Classics like "Sex and Fury" and "Lady Snowblood".) There are lots of dark humor, intentionally bad special effects and striking ideas (even a visit to the present reality), stylized swordplay with geysers of blood and even brain, dumb demons feeding on corpses and an extremely funny perverted old ex-monk who gets superpowers after having been poisoned, buried and struck by lightning on the same day. Some people help each other, some betray each other and the strange man in the fur coat (IMO the devil himself) seems to have a really good time.
So I can recommend this as good lighthearted entertainment, just do not expect to be emotionally touched or really aroused.
Mostly good rhythm and excellent cinematography, but the score is simply too much, with howls, shrieks and all it would be more suitable for a horror with lots of scares. Paired with this story (which flows quietly most of the time) this agitated music raises expectations the pictures can not live up to.
Now this is practically forgotten -- as I write this, there are only 8 IMDb ratings. (Although one can view it for free at YouTube; certainly the quality is not good there and the language is Russian only.) And seeing this again, I must admit that it is not for today's teens! For them the film would seem very SLOW and cheap, without any special effects (if we do not count some fake snow that is clearly foam from a fire extinguisher) and only one jump scare. There is no rude humor either. Maybe a remake will make the story accessible for them some day... But the original is still a decent survival movie for grown-ups, with exemplary character development and nice cinematography.
The story: Four 13 year olds, three boys and one girl are on a school skiing tour in the Crimean mountains above Yalta. Not willing to wait two hours for the end of a boring ski jumping event, they decide to leave the group and take a mountain path back to camp. A sudden storm forces them to leave the open ridge and seek shelter in a cave. Inside they discover a secret cache and command bunker that used to belong to Hitler's Wehrmacht. Although cold and there is no fuel/electricity (only lots of candles, weapons, money and canned food -- everything is labeled but in German that they do not understand) the cave gives good shelter for one stormy night. The trouble comes the next morning when they try to leave, only to discover that during the night a landslide has closed the opening. Now they must find their way out before they either freeze or starve to death...
From there the film takes a rather unique path. Unlike in Daylight (1996) or Metro (2013) physical force or acrobatic skills are useless here. Survival depends on intellectual and even moral strength. What should they use from the German stock and what is better left alone? How to decipher the German signs and should they believe them? What to do if one's decision affects the whole group's chances to live? Thus the strong but reckless Boris is gradually losing his leader's position to nerdy Marat, an unlikely hero who, while the other boys play with the weapons, is learning German from a found conversation booklet. (It was made to ease the invaders' communication with the locals, and practically contains threats of death penalty for almost everything. It is interesting to see how the booklet helps the children to really comprehend the nastiness of war and Nazism for the first time, although this is something they already knew well in theory.) It is also very remarkable how remembering pieces of advice from his parents helps Marat to come to good decisions -- unlike the majority of children's movies that overemphasize the value of independence and show the protagonists trying to solve their problems without any help from the adult world, which actually may give young viewers rather bad ideas.
This movie came from a small studio, it's low budget even by Soviet standards and most contributors are B-grade -- but it is visible that the director, cinematographers and other people involved were used to such limitations and they really gave their best. (In this aspect this film resembles "The Aquanauts" 1979, although the two projects shared only a cameraman.) The opening credits are among the best I've ever seen: a shaky pseudo-amateur camera follows the winding mountain high road, sometimes seeking out the historical buildings and other interesting sights alongside it. (Certainly Soviet schoolchildren did not have camcorders in the 1970s but one can imagine the local TV studio having sent an intern to film the school trip for their newsreel.) A choir sings the theme song that sounds like a typical pioneer's song but it is neither propagandistic or overly patriotic, it is a lovely song about finding ourselves via nature and travel. At times the road enters dark tunnels (this is when the credits are shown), the march-like instrumentation turns to violins and an eerie atmosphere creeps in... While the camera-work is not equally imaginative during the rest of the film, it successfully gives the illusion of having been filmed by candlelight and electric torches only, but without too much disturbing candle-like flickering; also there is an interesting noir-like play of shadows at the decisive moments. And the score is using the same simple melody again and again, flexibly and unobtrusively. (It is worth to observe how agitated it gets at 01:01 when they dress a wound.)
Marat's parents are the only professional actors (known from lots of supportive roles) and neither of these children have grown into an actor since then, but they did a good job here, speaking and behaving very naturally.
This is a film made by an excellent cameraman who thought he does not need a director, professional actors or a decent script. (Reminds me to the airplane mechanic from "Murphy's War" who thought he knows so much about planes, he surely will be able to fly one at the first try.) There is enough raw material there for a good National Geographic article ("Student Cycles the Beautiful Coast of Taiwan Alone") with lots of stunning views of nature and a glimpse of a hard-working island -- but not enough for a feature film. And the professional cinematography made me constantly waiting for something more dramatic, I was not able to view this the way I view ordinary cycle touring videos. The lack of handlebar-mounted camera view, so frequent in that genre, makes this feel even less like a cycling documentary. (This is shot in third-person view most of the time.)
As for a real road movie, this must be the most boring one ever made. The young hero's character does not ever change (well, it is only seven days) and it was not too interesting to begin with: always easy-going, content with everything. He meets totally uninteresting people, with the possible exception of the old amateur sculptor (but he appears only in the last minutes). The historical events recalled are mildly interesting at best. And do not let the presence of a guitar make you expect a strong musical score!
One of the main reasons is modernity for modernity's sake. The non- linear handling of time, lots of flashbacks and "what if" fantasies does not really add to the story. Besides that there is a plethora of gratuitous characters whose presence only disturbs the viewer -- one constantly has to seek some hidden meaning that is actually not there. Why does an elegant red-haired woman keep on staring at Elisabeth openly and impolitely all the time? She never notices her wound, but the little girl does -- why does she smile and turn away without saying anything? After Elisabeth's pointless moving to another compartment, there is the astronomer and the inventor-crook but I could not figure out for the life of me why they were needful in this story.
Secondly, the stars! Gunther Malzacher is the only one who plays his role adequately. Certainly the role of the strong insensitive rich man is very cliché and he did not have to perform any better than he did in his numerous criminal films. The waiter-lover is a bad joke, it is impossible to take him seriously. But the main component of failure is Elisabeth who is not either mysterious or desirable enough, she looks just plain and quite often stupid. This kind of slow suicide is hard to believe anyway, but a good actress and a real femme fatale, Hanna Schygulla or Romy Schneider could have played this well, filling up the empty spaces of the script. (Not for the budget this film had, but the 91 minutes are too long anyways. Herr Schilling should have better made a really good short instead of a failed feature film.)
But there is a point where the other reviewers seem to have seen another film: they say that Kazumi was timid, sensitive or insecure at the beginning. On the contrary! In my version she is loud, obnoxious, her behavior almost scandalous. Kazuo even reminds her that "New students are supposed to be shy." But strangely, the transformed Kazuo behaves just like described: feminine, but seems to host another, timid girl's soul, not that of the Kazumi we knew. This is why I would not say that Omi Toshinori's acting is as good as that of the female lead.
During the film I expected the changed children to change their parents, too. (At least the mothers as the fathers are hard-working types, rarely seen at home.) Kazuo's mother who has abandoned herself during the years could have acquired some sophistication while Kazumi's mother could have turned out to be less stiff in the end. (Putting these believable characters to good use.) Well, this never happens and maybe my expectations were too Western. Thinking of it, it is rather rare in Japanese films that somebody of lower rank as a child (employee, private) would change the life of somebody more important (parent, boss or officer).
Another thing that might be a missed opportunity: it is absolutely funny when Kazumi seems to think that Miss Kawahara has just made a Lesbian move on her (1:04), she makes a priceless facial expression. Regretfully this thread is cut short too soon and her concern turns out to be of a pure friendly nature.
I recommend that you read the review by "opossumd from Italy" here, as he very well summarized the weaknesses of the casting, as well as the fewer pleasant surprises (Daria and Maria Libera). It is really embarrassing to see all the unbelievable staggering of Gustavo, as the actor is not good enough to compensate for the sloppy writing. (Unlike Battiston who does that successfully most of the time.) Gustavo is rather quick to give up the memory of the foster father who helped him to become a successful architect and embrace his worthless biological father, but we never get to know why. I kid you not: this motif is more chiseled in Kung Fu Panda 2! And his love affair is so unfounded and without chemistry, I could not believe that for a moment, although I tried hard as I'm a real sucker for love at first sight. This makes Major Kierkegaard one of the most superfluous and kitschy characters -- the other being the old Chinese naturopath. It is rather clichéd to have one in a movie, but certainly it can be used well, think of Woody Allen's "Alice". But this one is introduced, gives some pieces of ineffective advice, then he's simply forgotten at some point.
And there is one point, after Agatha's confession to the wrong man and her consequent destruction of the electrical systems of both the car and the highway lighting (two rather good scenes) when it seems the dog ate the remaining parts of the script and the director also abandoned the project, telling the actors to carry on what they did before. From that on, Agatha only shows very out-of-place signs of happiness (even at a funeral) and the whole film falls apart.
(Soldini is usually well aware of the fact that money doesn't grow on trees and even well-to-do people have financial problems sometimes. This is not important but can be felt in "Bread and Tulips", a very important motif in both "Come Undone" and "Days and Clouds". But in this one, Gustavo abandons his architect practice, Agatha the bookshop and Romeo's fashion business has always been a one-man show. But in the end the trout farm is still being built and the family still can afford to spend an awful lot on medical treatment. Good for them but frankly I prefer to be taken seriously as a viewer.)
I do not agree fully with opossumd on one important point: he thinks Licia Maglietta was erroneously cast, "too plain, overage and overweight for the character." I'm convinced she could have done it very well, just not with this script and partner. Imagine Nico being not older than 17 (certainly not married, with an unloving mother, reading a lot and shy with girls of his age) and suddenly a lot of things would be in place: his attraction to a motherly figure, his strange style of courtship, and also Agatha's unnaturally strong reactions to a temptation that would be much more scandalous than "simple" adultery! Needless to say, making THAT film would have required a lot of courage. . .
After the enormous accomplishment of winning the war against a very determined and better prepared enemy, Russians finally lost the peace - - this is something we all know by now. But in 1971 it was not foreseen by most people, so this is quite surprising to see, how clearly "Belorussian Railway Station" knew and has shown it all. It depicts quite clearly, how doomed the Soviet economy was, due to the unbelievable levels of incompetence among leaders (big and small) and a very inflexible bureaucracy, powers even war heroes could not overcome.
Well, this is old news and "Vokzal" is very slow, even by 1970s standard. But if you have the necessary patience and you can enjoy a theatrical play, it is worth seeing once for the great acting. All the five protagonists are very good, although Safonov is strangely underused. (The other three males are characterized in detail, therefore I feel he should have been, too. I really wonder why his personal background is missing, was that part censored or simply cut out because the film turned out to be too long?) Leonov is clearly the best, as usual, and Nina Urgant managed to be unforgettable, lovely and very authentic, although her role was kind of auxiliary, her character less elaborate than the others.
The film missed, in my opinion, some opportunities: more Okudzhava songs, for example. (He wrote some great ones about soldiers not finding their places in peace.) And there is a view, a dangerous tunnel with rotting pipes under a peacefully sleeping housing estate, that could have been much more memorable, highly symbolic and maybe even one of the great moments of cinema, if cinematography would have been great and not only adequate.
His current lover refuses to deal with the whole problem and his ex-wife thinks it solved after they throw the money away. So she sends their little daughter to him as planned, but Gáspár loses his nerve and flies to some rural area near a border together with the girl. (We do not get to know what he hopes for, but Hungary has no neighbor that would not extradite an accused killer.) There they are chased by the military and more unexplained and illogical decisions follow. . .
What the filmmakers seem to have tried to accomplish: This is already from the era when most lesser Hungarian directors are influenced by Béla Tarr, in this case his early "Damnation." The influence of Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man" is evident, too. So this film tries to make Tarr's atmosphere of grimness and hopelessness relatively easily understandable and consumable. Does so with imitating a thriller in its first half (there are plenty of Hitchcock references) but switching to the mood of traditional ballads in the end. This should explain the instinctive decisions of the hero and give him dignity, I guess.
Does this work? Regrettably not. There are no real characters, no sufficient motivation behind the acts and relations, no psychological depth and the story is not strong (mythological) enough to advance even without these. The dialogues are terrible: everybody speaks in the same style, resembling robots or retards -- quickly to the point, without any small-talk (which would be very impolite in the country) and nobody asks back the evident questions. So there is no credibility in either the hero's or the country's portrayal. The "road movie" part only adds more uninteresting and unbelievable characters.
The good points: There is no original music in this low-budget film, but the musical pieces are well-chosen and really add to the mood. Cinematography is pretty good sometimes: more exactly, it does not miss an easy target (frosty county roads, foggy mountain), while the indoor shots are not always good. It intentionally refuses to find beauty in anything that is man-made and modern.
The Swiss businessman Robert visits a strip club-brothel and decides to sleep with one of the girls, black-skinned Marga. Then disaster strikes: while he actually sleeps the girl jumps from the window. While she's in coma in the hospital, the police arrests him for attempted murder. His wife Lola does not want to let him rot in prison (which would be very understandable in my opinion) but decides to investigate the background, to clear his name and then leave him as a free man. So she applies for work in the brothel, which is now lead by Lena, an exhibitionist hobby-stripper and also the Lesbian girlfriend of Marga (who may look like a cheap whore -- as Lola refers to her -- but actually she owns the place).
At this point the direction and cinematography seem to be rather good: everything happens in the same small rooms with a claustrophobic feel. The compositions are dominated by strong black-red-white and the bright stage lights are always shaded with clouds of cigarette smoke. Even the shaky camera work seems to emphasize Lola's anxiety. Regretfully all this remains so till the end of the film and consequently gets tedious rather soon. (It is strange in a Franco film, but there is no tropical island sequence here.)
Lola had no real reason to be anxious in the end. Lena sees through her from the beginning and after seducing her she quickly produces Marga's diary which proves that she was intent on suicide. (The police really should have sent a pretty female officer to question her!) I'm not going to discuss her reasons here, but if you've seen anything from Franco, it won't come as a surprise.
The trouble is, Marga's experiences are told with an amount of realism that is not enough to make this a realist movie, but enough to ruin this as an erotic one. For example, all the men she has sex with skip foreplay, this might be a realistic touch but unpleasant to view. Once she even leads a BDSM session that is unbelievably pathetic -- there's no doubt a lot of people do it this way (there must be a reason why the sex shops of the world sell bad jokes for whips and not the real thing), but I'm sure nobody can feel aroused from seeing this on screen.
There is another problem and again a very surprising one in a Jess Franco film: the women are not beautiful. Well, Lena has a beautiful body with a nice puffy you know what, but her face is rough and her voice is hoarse. (Unpleasantly so, not Amanda Lear-style sexy hoarse, although the soundtrack is in German and I admit, I rarely find this language sexy.) Still Lena is the local sex goddess because she is the only one character in the whole film who knows what foreplay is. She also knows how to trim a bush -- the other two are so natural, I never consider them really naked. And she actually can act a little, which is not the case with the other two ladies.
Lola has a pretty face and nice legs but her upper body is almost frightening, with small artificial breasts and a vertical groove. Lina Romay would have been so much better in this role! And I found nothing beautiful in Marga, although she is slender, with narrow boyish hips. This and her black skin (which seems to be rare in this town) might be enough to get her clients indeed. But she is the one who has most screen time, without any beauty, acting abilities or graceful movements, which makes this movie almost unbearably boring.
All the male actors, including Robert and especially Victor, are so bad that they seem to be extras in the actors' places.
So, why not one star? As I mentioned before, cinematography seems to be rather good for ten minutes or so. And the score is better than Franco's usual, it is stylish and almost good sometimes, in an Emmanuelleish sense.
Handsome Yegor is a melancholic type with simple tastes. He's content with spending his spare time at home or with a small circle of (similarly simple) friends. He takes his responsibility as a provider very seriously and makes rather good money as an illegal night-time cab driver. Certainly this is a dead-end job and a dangerous one, too. Not to mention the fact that they are often awake at different times. . . Still he expects praise from Zhenya but gets criticism instead. And he has nothing in common with the wife's friends and colleagues -- actually he does not dare to say anything in his country-boy dialect among them.
Then comes Olya, slightly older and much closer to Yegor culturally. They are not in love the way the married ones used to love each other, but Olya is sure she wants the man in her life and she knows how to treat one. Her traditional, slightly submissive ways are very good for Yegor's self-esteem.
Divorce happens, a fairly easy and friendly one. Life goes on but the ending leaves no doubt: they lost the love of their lives and this is the first spouse they will miss on their deathbeds.
This film does not try to achieve too much, but fulfills all its promises remarkably well. The story is so down-to-earth, credibility and attention to details matter a lot, and it is all in place. (While there are also some memorable symbolic moments, like the one when Zhenya struggles trying to throw away the heavy mattress she does not need anymore.) Cinematography is professional but very unobtrusive, music choices are often ironic. Do not expect as many smiles, this is a sad and eventually nostalgic story, but its passionate realism reminded me of Truffaut frequently.
This could have been better as a short. At this duration a lot of scenes feel too long. The whole film is slow: sometimes the high-tension kind of slow but often plain boring.
Some Norwegian and Swedish viewers seem to have distorted the rating here, which is now at 9 stars -- that is ridiculous. I'd say this movie is approximately as good as Werner Herzog's Signs of Life, the American Hell in the Pacific (1968) or the Japanese Fires on the Plain (1959), maybe the recent British "1971", all between 7 and 7.5 now. For some strange reason even the very best of war films do not score 9-10 at IMDb. Even Das Boot, Apocalypse Now, Ivan's Childhood and Come and See do not reach 9 at this moment -- and this film is clearly not in the same league!
Antonio Mayans, an experienced actor with some of the worst films ever made (like Zombie Lake) in his portfolio, is surprisingly good in this. Despite the macho mustache he is a softy and generally slow. He is clumsy and a coward when facing violence and does not have good investigation skills at all. But his interaction with the little girl (played by his real-life daughter who is cute as a button) is heart-warming, funny and feels genuine on-screen. They could have built on this, emphasizing the contrast between his family life and his violent and sleazy working hours -- but regrettably this thread never develops. His character is not interesting enough to save the whole film in itself. (He tried at least!) Moreover the outside world is not violent enough for a thriller/mystery (we hear about two murders that are never shown). And it is not very sleazy either, which is rather surprising from Jess Franco and his wife! Certainly Lina Romay is sexy as usual (despite the ugly blonde wig she's wearing) but we don't get but very short glimpses of her womanly body. Her erotic scenes with men are rather mild. She appears in a scene with an older bisexual woman and they engage in mutual oral sex, well, that one is hot but she is mostly clothed during that, too.
(The end credits reveal that the bill was partly paid by the local government of Costa del Sol -- the Spanish seaside is indeed shown in full Techicolor glory. Maybe they did nor want to be associated with too much sleaze? But in this case why did they hire Jess Franco to begin with?)
The actors seem to have done everything they could within the limits of the script, but Benjamin Biolay is miscast as Monsieur Caravaille: he should be a heavily built strong man, menacing already in his appearance, but energetic and silken at the beginning, not annoyed and lethargic all the time. Freya Mavor is rather good but her skin is not tanned, which is very important in the book -- this is why everybody she encounters on the road instantly believes she is from the upper class. With this very bold freckled and pale appearance she could never be mistaken for another woman. And the role of "Georges" is kind of quickly thrown together here, while vivid and remarkable in the book, so Elio Germano did not have a real chance either -- but succeeds to show at least a little from both his easy-going and menacing sides.
The air of the sixties is well represented sometimes, in the indoor settings, her clothing and certainly in the mighty Thunderbird itself -- but come on, all the roads are empty and besides the actors there is not a living person in sight at Paris-Orly. Some contemporary footages could have helped here!
This is the case with Daneliya's Nastya that powerfully depicts the Yeltsin-era Russian moral and economic decadence as its background, without ever loosing a mood of optimism, cheerfulness and openness. No hysterical laughters here, but a constant smile; and this is family-friendly entertainment, without dirty jokes. (Although too young viewers might find this dull.)
The otherwise good-looking Kutepova is very convincing as the clumsy-moving and frightfully too-friendly "ugly Nastya" and despite being an amateur actress, the breathtakingly beautiful Markova plays "transformed Nastya" very adequately. (You could say that her acting is wooden but "transformed Nastya" is in a shock-like state for days.) Valery Nikolaev is an annoying ne'er-do-well in the beginning but suddenly shows a lot of dignity and loveliness in the metro station scene -- similarly to Heath Ledger's stadium performance in "10 Things I Hate About You". (He moves very gracefully, too.) You might think that the great comical actor Leonov is wasted in a few-words supporting role as Nastya's boss but he excels in that, too and at last he does not steal the show from the young ones -- Nastya's mother does that sometimes.
Still could be enjoyable if it had good acrobatic stunts, some swordplay and so on, but no such luck -- action means only lots of fake shooting. The sets and costumes are often anachronistic, what certainly could be put to good use, but in this case seems unintentional, and so does the humor in most cases.
Overall I found this a big waste of time. I can understand the Koreans who liked an improved version of their history, but I suspect the Western fans of this flick must have grown up on Disney Zorro... (And even that had better dialogs.)
The movie is very atmospheric from the beginning and the kind of story that logically proves you there is no supernatural evil (just some greedy bad guys), but somehow makes you believe just the opposite in the end! The cinematography of the bleak foggy landscapes and the decaying dark castle, both silent but really menacing, is just unforgettable. There is some very decent acting -- sadly not from the part of Elena Dimitrova who overacts sometimes (and looks a bit old for the role) but all the other actors are good, especially those in the important role of Lord Dubotowk and the minor one of the police chief.
All the costumes and paraphernalia are chosen with great care: the woodcut illustrations of the old book, the family portrait paintings and the puppet theater are particularly beautiful. And the music is remarkable, too -- they could not use it very professionally throughout the movie, but in the final minutes it's so good, even Morricone could not have made it better.
The first story really balances between reality (a slightly and satirically distorted one) and supernatural, as the pretty ordinary, very snobbish wedding planner suddenly grows into demonic proportions - - but surprisingly still gets "normal" reactions from the others. This is good, rather Bulgakovian but regretfully never surpassed or even completed by the other three stories.
The second one is somewhat down-to-earth, about corruption in all levels of Russian life (including the highest one), well-made and often funny but breaks the atmosphere of the film as a whole. So does the third one about the librarian lady who receives a benevolent psychic power from the poems of Pushkin -- this is not more than a too-fantastic idea, "Twilight Zone" style (albeit professionally filmed). And the last one, a cliché story in which a middle-aged guy (Mr. Editor-in-chief himself) realizes that his too good to be true affair with a girl in her early twenties is not so great after all and learns to appreciate all the knowledge women of his age possess. This is not well-made at all, the girl being an unbelievable character (beautiful, young and upper-class but behaving very cheap, with low self-esteem and without really using her feminine powers). 100% male fantasy and the execution is more tired than hot.
So this film made me expect something great but left me unsatisfied in the end (and did I mention this ends with really awful Russian rap?) but I still expect better ones from the obviously very talented director.
Two stars because there is 1970s coolness factor (cars and clothing) and because you can imagine Tarantino recycling his memories of this movie into something actually good. But you can find these in much better Japanese films of the era.
The stories are not so much about finding new love as about big gestures of forgiveness in old relationships. One of the "new love" threads about a glamorous (if aging) pop star falling to a young cadet is the most unbelievable one and the other about two ski-enthusiast Siberian youngsters is downright annoying. But the main thread about the pilot and his old love who are already a legend as well as living persons and the one about the divorced father sneaking back to his daughter in the costume of the (Santa Claus-like) Father Frost are something to remember, with genuine-looking emotions and very likable characters. The rich little girl, smart and rather precocious and really naive at the same time, shows superb acting skills. But the funniest is the story of the amnesiac executive trying to find his old home, with well-working crazy situations and the acting of Svetlakov (as a street-smart country guy for the first time in the big city) who is clearly the best in the whole movie.
The weakest part is Raphaelle's character, very underwritten and Chiara Mastroianni cannot compensate for this either. She should be deeply content and at the same time desperate in the role of maitresse/mother, should be very beautiful and exciting (what she is not, she's not ugly but worn out) to explain even a cold affection from the part of the demanding M. Laporte and Marco's un-tactical fit of passion in the end. There should be chemistry between her and Marco from the beginning, but we do not see that and her involvement with him feels totally unfounded. Actually they seem to feel awkwardly when together, even their lovemaking is hard to watch, rough but not passionate and hardly the source of emotional satisfaction she must have missed with Laporte... Even her life with her son lacks any vitality, we could as well look at two customers in a furniture store. Theoretically we know what she is expected to feel -- or the suspenseful ending would not be believable - - but it is only a cold knowledge.
Cinematography is surprisingly bad sometimes: the way the important car crash is filmed usually can be seen in very old and very low-budget movies only.
The good parts: Vincent Lindon tries his best, he feels genuine in this hard role. Music is more than adequate. Plus the vintage Alfa Romeo, well, *that* is a masterpiece.
Don't be fooled by all the Estonians who hold this film in such a high esteem -- this is a pretty average historical adventure story of the age. (Certainly this might have been a good opportunity to show the other nations the values of their history, culture and language but that is independent of artistic value.) Nothing very special in the fields of direction and cinematography; IMHO the songs are not that great either. (Maybe these sound better in the Russian version?)
Fencing and other forms of bloodless fighting vary from decent to ridiculously bad. (Near the end, Gabriel's "fight" with the well-armed monastery guards is worse than Disney Zorro. The film's one whipping scene is much more realistic than the swordplay.) While the scenery is beautiful indeed, not much wildness in sight; I often had the impression that it was filmed in a very small and too well-kept park.
The strongholds: first of all, Ingrid Andrina is extremely cute, in a decidedly not innocent way. She has a very suggestive way of eating mutton, which is indeed the sexy highlight of the movie. We also see her nipples -- in a not-erotic context, but still very unexpected from a Soviet production. She seems to really enjoy acting in this, too!
Polan Bykov is superb (as always) in the role of the manipulative and very cynical priest.
The freedom fighters: they do also pillage and rape, a very realistic touch when compared to the French-Italian productions of the age.