Thursday, 22 March 2012

Vitaly Vorobiev: I Shall Remember - Буду помнить (2010)

Director: Vitaly Vorobiev
Cast: Roman Golchuk, Denis Paramonov, Sergei Makhovikov, Elena Podkaminskaia

In many respects, Vitalii Vorob’ev’s I’ll Remember is a workmanlike example of genre filmmaking about the German onslaught in 1942 in the south of Soviet Russia. The moving parts of the film’s story, about the quotidian bravery and treachery of ordinary citizens in confronting the Nazi occupation, comfortably fall into the furrows that have been thoroughly ploughed by many Soviet films. Vorob’ev’s portrayal of the response of children to invasion and occupation—alternating between quaking fear and an almost preternatural sang froid—naturally recalls Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (Ivanovo detstvo, 1962),among other films. Yet I’ll Remember also yields some unexpected glints of seminal thinking about new or different ways to cinematically represent the Russian experience of the Second World War, particularly in regard to Russian-Jewish cultural relations, the long shadow cast in the Russian provinces by the criminal underworld of the urkas and “thieves in law” (vory v zakone), and the moral ambiguities of collaboration.

The last of these subjects is, of course, especially provocative, suggesting a certain historical revisionism that goes against the grain of the Putinist neo-Soviet view of the Second World War as a moral struggle that can be clearly demarcated among a film’s cast of characters. In this regard, Vorob’ev’s film is clearly a very different animal from representations of the war such as Andrei Kavun’s television series Military Students (Kursanty, RTR, 2004),which offer up what might be regarded as a Russian equivalent of “Greatest Generation” nostalgia à la Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) and David Frankel and Mikael Salomon’s Band of Brothers (2001). Vorob’ev is interested in portraying the unexpected triumph of evil within particular individuals, implying that there is a troubling measure of unknowability about the moral character of others until the point that they actually commit themselves to an act that is demonstrably evil or good; he suggests that the cinematic form is limited in its ability to represent evil, and that in fact moviemaking more often than not is a medium that revels in its power to obfuscate.

The time frame of I’ll Remember is the late summer of 1942, with Soviet soldiers in retreat from an unnamed town within the rocky terrain of the region of the Caucasian town of Mineral’nye Vody. Most of the Jewish residents of the town evacuate as quickly as they can, leaving certain younger family members in hiding with Russian gentile families whom they feel they can trust, while many others go into hiding among the cluster of rocky escarpments outside the town. German bombers strafe and kill almost all of the evacuees as they attempt to clamber onto the trains provided by the Soviet military. One survivor, the ten-year old Emil’ Averbakh (Denis Paramonov), in desperation returns to the communal house in which he and his family lived, and goes into hiding with the Shevelevs, a gentile family that is riven by a conflict between the father Dmitrii and his own, troubled ten-year old son Vadim (Roman Gol’chuk). Dmitrii has been released from a prison term for sabotage of a collapsed mine near the town five years before. Vadim (also known as Vad’ka) regards his father as a traitor, and rebels against him by falling in with a group of urka youths. ...

reviewed by Alexandar Mihailovic © 2012 in KinoKultura

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