Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sergei Gerasimov: Quiet Flows the Don - Тихий Дон (1957)

Тихий Дон (1957-1958)

Director:Sergei Gerasimov
Actors: Daniil Ilchenko, A. Filippova, Pyotr Glebov, Nikolai Smirnov, Lyudmila Khityaeva, Elina Bystritskaya, Zinaida Kirienko

 And Quiet Flows the Don is a three-part epic 1958 Soviet film directed by Sergei Gerasimov based on the novel of the same title by Mikhail Sholokhov. The first two parts of the film were released in October 1957 and the final third part in 1958. In 1958 the film won Crystal Globe award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Best Picture Award at the All-Union Film Festival.

Review by A.H. WEILER, published: May 25, 1960 in NYT

HAVING set themselves a monumental task, the Russian film-makers who produced "And Quiet Flows the Don" classic and immense novel of Cossack life directly before and after the advent of communism, can be accorded only an A for effort on the evidence put on view yesterday at the Plaza Theatre.
For the drama, which is the latest consignment in the United States-Soviet Union Cultural Exchange Program, is merely a fragmentary slice of the pastoral and bloody, romantic and sedentary lives and loves of the villagers of Tatarskaya on the Don that is, for the most part, portrayed in obvious, flamboyant style. Although it was photographed in pleasingly vivid hues by Vladimir Rapoport, it only occasionally manages to be truly colorful and striking.
Perhaps Sergei Gerasimov, one of the Soviet Union's leading movie men, who adapted and directed "Don" in 1957, was overwhelmed by the wealth of material at his disposal. Out of the saga's first two novels, "And Quiet Flows the Don" and "The Don Flows Home to the Sea," each of which was well over 700 pages (and a third book), which have been compared to the works of Tolstoy and other literary titans, Mr. Gerasimov fashioned no fewer than three features, the first of which is the import now being shown.
The richness of his source is only fleetingly captured here. Despite the adequate English subtitles, which toward the film's climax passingly indicate special political pleading, "Don" is basically episodic fare, highlighted here and there by moments of real drama and ending with seemingly unfinished business that may confuse viewers unaware that Sections Two and Three of this gigantic movie triptych are still to come.
As has been noted, Mr. Gerasimov is concerned not with the many characters that populate Sholokhov's books but simply the leading players. In an essentially austere yarn, he illustrates the story of the young, fiery and abundantly red-blooded Grigory, who has romantic designs on Aksinya, the wife of another Cossack; his pre-arranged, loveless marriage; his adulterous relationship with Aksinya; a short glimpse of Cossack lancers clashing with the enemy in World War I; our star-crossed hero's discovery that his beloved has succumbed to the blandishments of the heir to the estate where he works, and his ultimate return to his wife.

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