Monday, 11 July 2011

Nikolai Lebedev: The Star -Звезда (2002)

Director: Nikolay Lebedev
Writers: Aleksandr Borodyanskiy, Yevgeni Grigoryev,
Stars: Igor Petrenko, Artyom Semakin, Aleksey Panin

Awards:
5 wins & 4 nominations


The war film is a well-worn genre in Russian cinematography. The huge losses Russia sustained in the Second World War ensured that it would become iconic of the Manichean battle between good and evil in which Communism proved its political validity by triumphing in battle. Whilst these films are fascinating lessons in their use of political symbolism, they are neither historically accurate or particularly good cinema.

Here steps in director Nikolai Lebedev, who seeks with Zvezda (The Star, 2002) to salvage the Russian war film from its rather unglamorous past and present a lesser known side to the war—the world of intelligence officers working behind enemy lines.

The film has a solid literary background, being based on Emmanuil G Kazakavich's most famous short story, also called "Zvezda," written in 1947 and based on his own experiences in the Red Army. While war literature was glorified in the post-war years in much the same way war films were, Kazakavich never fitted in. His stories, quite simply, told the war as it was, rather than as an allegory of Soviet supremacy.

Zvezda follows a group of scouts as they assemble for a reconaissance mission to spy on the regrouping Germans. One of the new faces in the camp is a fresh-faced young wireless operator, who instantly falls head over heels for the commander of the scout team. As they push into enemy territory, every radio message sends her into near orgasmic rapture. The scouts themselves meanwhile have to contend with dodging detection by the Germans—no mean feat as the body count continues to rise. The team uncovers the preparations for a massive German offensive, but only after losing their radio. A desperate search ensues for a means to get the vital information about the coming attack back to base as the German army close in on them.

Despite its rhetoric of being a new kind of war film, Zvezda is remarkably clichéd. Eddie Cockrell, writing for Variety, lists where Lebedev has borrowed cinematic tricks from Spielberg and Scorsese,[1] but the most telling similarities are the ones with the films it seeks to be different from. ...

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