Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USSR/Japan, 1975. Atelier 41, Daiei Studios, Mosfilm, Trete Tvorcheskoe Obedinenie. Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Yuriy Nagibin, based on the novel Dersu, Okhotnik by Vladimir Arsenev. Cinematography by Fyodor Dobronravov, Yuriy Gantman, Asakazu Nakai. Produced by Yoichi Matsue. Music by Isaac Schwarts. Production Design by Yuriy Raksha. Costume Design by Tatyana Lichmanova. Film Editing by Valentina Stepanova. Academy Awards 1975.
Russian soldiers surveying the wild, gorgeous expanse of Siberia run into a lone Asiatic hunter named Dersu Uzala and he soon joins their group. He helps them not only find their pathways in this completely unforgiving yet beautiful land, he assists them in hunting and connecting with the locals, until the day he decides to continue sable hunting on his own. Years later, the captain of the soldiers, with whom Uzala became good friends, runs into him again on another surveying mission, and this time the man has a request for him: now that he is aging and his instincts are no longer suited for the wild, could the soldier not take him back home to the city with him to live? The Captain, who loves this man like a brother, agrees, but the confines of urban living are not so easy for someone who has never slept in a bed that wasn’t made of grass. Akira Kurosawa made this stunner in the USSR during a time when his popularity in Japan had reached a very low point, and created one of his most poignant and delicate films. Although the story operates on a low burn, the imagery is as emotional as it is picturesque and the relationship that develops between the two leads seems to come organically from the connection that the film has with the natural world it portrays. I don’t know that anyone could film Siberia without being wholly affected by it, and Kurosawa has proven himself to have done a masterful job of giving into its wonderful splendour.