Thursday, 21 April 2011

Stanislav Rostotsky: The Dawns Here Are Quiet - А зори здесь тихие (1972)

Directed by Stanislav Rostotsky.
Starring Yelena Drapeko, Yekaterina Markova, Olga Ostroumova.

The Dawns Here Are Quiet (Russian: А зори здесь тихие, 1972) is a feature film directed by Stanislav Rostotsky based on Boris Vasilyev's novel of the same name. In 1973 the film was nominated for an Oscar in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category. ...

Stanislav Rostotsky's adaptation of Boris Vasilyev's acclaimed novel, The Dawns Here Are Quiet, deserved a better fate than to be utterly forgotten after being beaten to the 1973 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film by Luis Buñuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

However, its revival by the Russian Cinema Council in a fine two-disc edition reveals this sincere and occasionally innovative epic to be as poignant an account of the sacrifices made by ordinary citizens in the Great Patriotic War as Mikhail Kalatazov's The Cranes Are Flying (1957) and Grigori Chukrai's Ballad of a Soldier (1959).

Sergeant Andrei Martynov is initially dismayed at being placed in charge of an all-female anti-aircraft unit in the Finnish border region of Karelia in 1941. However, when gunner Irina Shevchuk spots Germans in the forest, Martynov quickly comes to respect the courage and resourcefulness of the five volunteers who accompany him on a reconnaissance mission that turns into a desperate rearguard after they discover that the invasion force numbers 16 rather than two.

Periodically switching from gritty monochrome to stylised colour, Rostotsky deftly sketches the backstories of Shevchuk's single mother, Yelena Drapeko's naive farm girl, Yekaterina Markova's lonely orphan, Irina Dolganova's Jewish scholar and Olga Ostroumova's disgraced city hussy without resorting to the cliché and caricature that undermined so many Hollywood combat pictures. ...

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