Saturday, 24 August 2013

Vladimir Motyl: Crimson Color of the Snowfall - Багровый цвет снегопада (2010)

Director: Vladimir Motyl
Writer: Vladimir Motyl
Stars: Mikhail Filippov, Daniela Stoyanovich, Aleksandr Tsurkan

Vladimir Motyl’s Crimson Color of the Snowfall addresses a historical subject and casts a light on the decade from 1916 to 1926. Motyl’ is not the only Russian director with an interest in the history of the early 20th century: one need only think of Admiral (2008, directed by Andrei Kravchuk), which uses the figure of Aleksandr Kolchak to re-evaluate the relationship between Reds and Whites, or Burnt by the Sun 2 (Utomlennye solntsem 2, 2010, directed by Nikita Mikhalkov), which looks back at the Red-White conflict and the Stalin era. Like these films, Motyl’ seeks to dismantle Soviet interpretative models that persist in the collective memory—not only of the older generation—and to redistribute “good” and “evil.” Motyl’, who also wrote the screenplay, plots the fortunes of a woman whose pursuit of personal happiness is thwarted again and again by the historical events. The impossibility of giving a meaningful structure to one’s life in times of upheaval has parallels, readily identifiable in the film, to Boris Pasternak’s revolutionary epic Doktor Zhivago. The film’s title, too, refers to the notion that there is no escape for anyone in times of upheaval. It does not—as usually—focus on the blood-stained snow on the ground, but describes the falling snow that drifts down on everyone, without discrimination.

As far as its composition is concerned, Crimson Color of the Snowfall is a traditional narrative film that makes ample use of melodramatic effects. The action begins in 1916 and follows in stages the fate of the young Kseniia Gerstel’, an orphan from an affluent industrialist family of German origin, now living in Kiev. She had already lost her father in the turmoil of the 1905 revolution and now, during the First World War, she believes that her fiancé and her brother have also been killed. Desperate, she volunteers for the Red Cross at the front, where she narrowly escapes death thanks only to the intervention, at the very last moment, of Colonel Rostislav Batorskii. Despite having been seriously wounded in the process, Batorskii is fond of the young woman and gives her shelter in his home in troubled Petrograd after the demobilisation. Out of gratitude, and in spite of the considerable age difference, she eventually agrees to marry him; her respectful reserve towards him develops into a happy relationship. However, this happiness comes to an abrupt end when Batorskii, now a general in the Provisional Government, goes on a tour of inspection in the company of his pregnant wife. The couple are travelling through Ukraine by train when Batorskii is brutally battered to death in front of her by Red revolutionaries at one of the stations. The following year, having recovered to some extent from the shock, her own injuries, and the loss of her unborn child, the young woman emigrates to Europe. She leaves behind her a Ukraine riven by crises and turmoil in the wake of revolutionary upheavals and the invasion of German and Austrian troops.

Reviewed by Christine Engel © 2013 in KinoKultura

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