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As the son of a Red Army veteran, director Aleksandr Sokurov spent his youth on military bases across the Soviet Union. He clearly draws on his own experiences in this paean to patriotism set against the backdrop of the Chechen conflict. Opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya excels as the haughty old Russian woman appalled by the conditions that her soldier grandson has to endure at a camp outside Grozny. But she also develops an empathy for the enemy after receiving the hospitality of impoverished pensioner Raisa Gichaeva during a visit to the local market. Sokurov's film has none of the politically correct but misguided romanticism of Sergei Bodrov's
Prisoner of the Mountains
(1996), or the macho nationalism of Alexei Balabanov's
(2002). Yet, while he celebrates the indomitability of the Motherland, he's also aware of its shortcomings and his subtle questioning of Kremlin objectives makes this disconcertingly bleached-out study of civil war stalemate both audacious and compelling.
Elderly Aleksandra Nikolaevna visits her grandson, a conscript based in a camp outside Grozny, and is appalled by the conditions the soldiers have to endure. She finds it difficult to come to terms with the realities of military life and, after an illuminating encounter with a kindly local, she begins to question the justification for the hostilities. Drama set during the Chechen conflict, with Galina Vishnevskaya, Vasily Shevtsov and Raisa Gichaeva. In Russian and Chechen.
Cast & Crew
Russian, Chechen +subtitles
26 Sep 2008
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