Monday, January 25, 2010

Burnt by the Sun

This weekend I was introduced to two "classic" Russian films: Burnt by the Sun and Brother 2. First of all, let me define the word "classic" in the sense that I am using it. These movies are both, supposedly, quoted an incredible amount by Russian citizens, and since I am trying to learn as much about Russian (pop) culture as possible, I decided to add these movies to my archive.

Burnt by the Sun is truly art if I have ever seen it. The film starts out as though it will be predictable, but ends with an interesting curve to the plot as the main character realizes that his hero (Stalin) may actually be his villain, rather than his savior.

The movie takes place during the reign of Stalin in Russia, and it's purpose is to show the horror that was faced by even the most loyal followers and warlords of that time. The title , "Burnt by the Sun" is probably symbolism for the idea that the main character (Nikita Mikhalkov) became so blinded by his loyalty that he was unable to see the terror that was taking place in front of him, and was "burned" by Stalin in the end.

To show Mikhalkov's blindness, one scene shows Mikhalkov having a relaxing afternoon by the river with his family, when they are all forced to interrupt their fun to have a mandatory military drill, which includes gas masks, stretchers, and evacuations. Some of the characters show their distaste for these drills, while others are playful and try to laugh them off, despite their allowed annoyance. Mikhalkov brushes off the incident as a normal, civil requirement.

In another scene, Mikhalkov acts playful and unmoved by the news that he will be picked up by a government car in just a few hours. This again shows his naiveness to the fact that Stalin will not always protect him. It is only when Kotov (Mikhalkov) sees Stalin's magestic banner waving in the blue sky, that he understands his loyalty was given for nothing.

Mikhalkov does an excellent job portraying the war hero, Kotov. He acts as a loving father to his young daughter, Nadia, and a nobel husband to his beautiful wife, Moroussia, despite her obvious attachment to another man. Kotov is extremely likable in the movie, and it is very easy to feel sorry for him as the plot starts to unravel near the end. The irony is that Kotov is highly ranked in the Communist Revolution, which should make him a villian in the eyes of history, not a "good family man".

All of the characters are interesting and properly portrayed by their actors. The plot is very engaging and full of surprises after the climax. The directing is done tastefully, despite the obvious attempts to glorify Russia. There is a nice balance between love, humor, and a dark seriousness in the film, which make it very entertaining for any viewer. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in the history of Russia, or anyone who enjoys high quality, non-traditional story lines.

Out of 10, I would rate this film an 8.

Side Note:

After I watched the movie and explained to Lyosha how I felt about it, he told me that it won an Oscar for best foreign film, AND the adorable Nadia (the daughter of Kotov) is Mikhalkov's actual daughter :)


Igor said...

Pretty strange translation for original title "Utomlyonnye solntsem". The literal translation is "Fatigued by the Sun". :-)

Ivan said...

And what about Brother-2? I think both movies (Brother and Brother-2) quite exactly shows Russia of 90th

Julie said...

Brother 2 does not deserve a review... It was entertaining, but it was not art by any means. I was forewarned about Brother 2 and it actually did exceed my expectations, but not enough for me to take time to express any sort of long written opinion. It was a brainless action flick, which is what i expected, so bravo to the writers and directors for delivering what they said they would :)