Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Russia/France, 2007. Proline Film, Rezo Productions, Russian Federation of Cinematography, Centre National De La Cinematographie. Screenplay by Aleksandr Sokurov. Cinematography by Aleksandr Burov. Produced by Laurent Danielou, Andrey Sigle. Music by Andrey Sigle. Production Design by Dmitriy Malich. Costume Design by Lidiya Kryukova. Film Editing by Sergey Ivanov. Cannes Film Festival 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Famed opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya makes a rare foray into film acting and does not come off in the least bit an amateur. She plays a woman who rides a military train to Chechnya to visit a barracks where her grandson is stationed as a captain. Once there she roams the grounds, goes shopping, and meets some locals at the market, the entire time followed by Aleksandr Sokurov’s gliding camera as it goes in and out of the various daily realities of these frustrated and bored men. The sight of hollow-faced soldiers having their dry, burned landscape (all shot in beautiful brown and gold) broken up by the presence of a strident and comforting maternal figure is the basis of this film’s thoughtful grace. The lack of a traditional or familiar storyline (the film essentially just records her observations) only makes the atmosphere that much more potent in this beautiful meditation.