1. In many
ways, Aleksandr Rogozhkin’s, prize-winning film, The Cuckoo, remains
a most unusual cinematographic study. Name and discuss what is so extraordinary
about this film.
how the three isolated protagonists in The Cuckoo (the
Russian soldier, Ivan, Veiko, the talkative Finnish sniper and Anni, the
young Lapp widow) establish a surrogate and affectionate bond as they
cooperate to survive in a harsh, wartime frontier.
of color imagery in The Cuckoo.
the role of music in The Cuckoo. Clarify the ways it relates to
the environments in the film and the protagonist's relationships to each
other (Clayton Boyd).
5. In The War, against the backdrop of a
hostage crisis, Balabanov offers
his cinematic view of the ongoing conflict raging between Russia and Chechnya
that began in December 1994. Discuss the film from this perspective.
6. Discuss the citation:
contemporary topic of
War, the film renders war as a perpetual way of life for Russian men.
By pairing two opposite characters in the lead roles—a Russian soldier,
Ivan, played by Aleksei Chadov, and a wimpy British actor, John,
played by Ian Kelly—Balabanov links the perception of war to national
perspectives. The film portrays the Russian as inherently linked
to war and the Englishman as poorly suited, indeed unfit, for it.”
Thief is an extraordinary glimpse at
the human condition during
the post war (1952) period of Soviet Russia. Discuss what you note about life
in the USSR.
symbolism of Thief in the film by that name refers to
more than the
illegal taking of goods! Discuss this symbolism.
image of “the
train” in The Thief was brought up in
but never fully discussed. What symbolism is Chukhrai presenting to his audience?
10. Chukhrai’s film
about the images of the masculinity (Tolyan) and of the child
(Sanya) run the gambit in The Thief. Discuss.
11. In a
New Yorker review of Chukhrai’s The Thief, Anthony Lane states
that “there is real grit and sting in this slight tale.” Agree or disagree…elucidate.
Lane, writing in the New Yorker says …”Nikita
movie, is set in 1936, in the high summer of Stalinist rule. …Sergei Kotov, a Soviet
Army colonel (played by Mikhalkov) …is part of…. a family group that circulates
around him in an idyllic dacha. The idyll cracks when the state, in the person of
a family friend, …cousin Dmitri from Moscow… (Oleg Menchikov), comes
to wreak havoc; a work that began in the rustling spirit of Chekhov ends like
a Scorsese picture, with thugs raining blows in the back of a car. What binds
the mixture is Mikhalkov's love of all the stray details his camera catches; the
movie may sound dispiriting, but it has an amazing ability to cheer you up.
There is a full range of acting styles, from the florid to the cartoonish,
and to the sharp-eyed, wholly uncute performance of the director's
eight-year-old daughter, Nadia, who gazes at the unfolding events with the
air of one who will never be able to banish them from her memory.” Discuss the quote.
ending of Burnt by the Sun shows us
how the lazy, dreamy
intellectual lives are over and how happiness will never come to them again.
This is the period of Stalin’s purges. Elucidate the statement.
14. Mikhalkov’s Burnt
by the Sun is a cinematic treat. It
is elegantly filmed
on photogenic locations that belie the seriousness of its message. Discuss.
15 Clarify the
symbolism of the title of Mikhalkov’s Burnt
by the Sun.
16. Three of the films
we have watched afford a marvelous view of
different periods during the Soviet era – The Thief, Burnt buy the Sun,
The Irony of Fate…. Thinking culturally, compare your impressions of
two or all three of these films.
Second Take-home Exam
1. Ryzazanov’s Irony of
Fate… has become a classic New Year’s must-watch film for Russians.
Russians adore this piece because everything in the film that seems impossible in America IS
possible in the USSR in 1975! Discuss what struck you after watching this film.
2. In Ryazanov’s Irony
Fate….the songs are sang by Alla Pugacheva and Sergei Nikitin -
Russian singers and songwriters. Poems by Pasternak, Akhmadulina, Akhmatova, and (one of
the most tender and beautiful poems read at the end) Kochetkov, make this film beautiful, lyrical
and complete. Discuss the lyrical aspects of this film.
3. Discuss the premise that Sergei
Bodrov's drama Prisoner of the Mountains remains a
emotionally charged indictment of war.
4. Sean Axmaker states that “there
is a beautiful irony in the
way that the most specific war
tales are often the most universal. Set high in the imposing, isolated Caucasus mountains, Prisoner
of the Mountains, where the 20th century meets ancient lifestyles, Sergei Bodrov's drama of the
Chechyn war finds two opposing cultures locked in conflict for so long that the reasons seem moot.
Young Russian grunt Vanya (Sergei Bodrov Jr., the director's son) and his jaded veteran Sergeant
(Burnt by the Sun's Oleg Menshikov) survive an ambush by Chechyn guerrillas and wind up hostages
of a village elder, a war-weary widower who has lost almost everything to fighting and wants merely
to swap them for his POW son. Bodrov's humanism is directed with empathy and stirred with harsh
realism--he takes no sides and offers no fantasies of happy endings, only small miracles of kindness
that refuse to be swallowed in the destruction and mistrust.” Use this citation as a pringboard for your
5. You have watched several films
that deal with war – The Cuckoo, The War, Prisoner of the
Compare two or all of these films from the point of view their directors take toward war.
6. “…Above all, Brother
gives a wonderfully resonant picture of modern St. Petersburg, the most
ambiguous and multifarious of Russian cities….This film can be seen as an ironic inversion of Crime and
Punishment with the killing but without the repentance.” Discuss the citation.
7. “Danila (played by Sergei
Bodrov), has just arrived in St.
Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, to look up
his older brother Viktor (Victor Sohurukov), a free-lance hit-man. Danila has just finished serving in
the Russian army and is unemployed. Without any fanfare, Viktor drafts his younger brother into the
family business. Viktor asks him if he was taught how to shoot a gun in the army.” Compare the action
of Brother to similar films with Clint Eastwood or to Charles Bronson's "Death Wish" films.
8. Although the following citation
is from the AMAZON page
selling the film, it is a clear statement
about the film content. Discuss the citation: "East-West" is a stunningly open Russian/French-produced
film about life in post-war USSR. Although the characters are composites, the story is based on cruel
historical events. When Stalin "welcomes back" all expatriated Russians, Alexei is overjoyed to leave
his long self-exile in France and sail to his beloved homeland. Aboard ship, he and his fellow passengers
celebrate their imagined homecoming to the glorious "Workers' Paradise". None of them has any idea
of the brutal changes which have occurred under "Uncle Joe's" regime. Only betrayal awaits them. Upon
the instant of their arrival, they are thrust into a nightmare of totalitarianism from which there is seemingly
no escape. Many of the returning countrymen are arrested or executed as "traitors of the state". Alexei,
as a physician, is considered valuable and spared, although his French wife comes under immediate
suspicion and surveillance. How their sudden culture shock, loss of human rights, miserable living
conditions, persecution, and bleak future inexorably erode their marriage is heart-breaking.
East-West is absorbing and disturbing.
The most shooting is done at eye level. Cinematographically,
this transmits a true sense of witness for the viewer in a very elemental, unavoidable way. Discuss this concept.
10. East-West furnishes us with yet another
view of the former USSR. In June 1946,
a major propaganda campaign aimed at Russians who had settled in the West, offering them amnesty
and an opportunity to be involved in the postwar restructuring of the USSR. How did you relate to
the content of this film?
11. In the film East/West, the relationships
characters as well as the characters’ relationships
with Russia/the USSR change and grow more complicated as the movie progresses. Discuss these
relationships and the changes they undergo (Megan Cook).
Final Take-home Exam
of Fools contains a number of
different societies or social groups, all of which interact
with one another in fascinating ways. All of the residents of the psychiatric facility form one group,
the Chechens form another, the Russian soldiers yet another, the psychiatric staff and its doctor, one
more. Discuss the film from the perspective of these differing social groups.
3. Discuss The Return
from the point of view of what Anthony Lane says about it.
"This first feature by Andrei Zvyagintsev has the startling, irrepressible quality of the best débuts.
A pair of brothers, young Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) and the teen-age Andrey (Vladimir Garin), l
ive peacefully in a fatherless household in a brackish backwater of what used to be the Soviet Union.
In the midst of an idle summer, their father (Konstantin Lavronenko) turns up from nowhere and
starts, with minimum benevolence, to reëstablish his authority. Andrey responds well to such
tyranny, while Ivan, a mother's boy, glowers at the treacherous interloper. Most of the film takes
place on a fishing trip, which ripples with threat and thrill alike; we know that it cannot end well
for father and sons, but we hardly dare to wonder what form the calamity will take. Zvyagintsev
gets formidable concentration from his youthful actors, and his storytelling moves with the simplicity-calm,
chiselled, and suggestive-of a fable. In Russian" -Anthony Lane.
Copyright © 2006, The New Yorker.
With sparse dialogue
and a gloomy atmosphere, The
Return captivates the
Filmed in the
Siberian pine forests near the border of Russia and Finland, the overcast sky and the drizzle work
to complement the somber moods of the characters. Much of what the audience carries away from
the movie is merely suggested and never explicitly mentioned. Discuss the film.
5. Many of
the films we have viewed
this semester have touched on
the role of the ideal Russian man.
How does this portrayal of the “Russian man” differ from film to film? In what ways are they the
same? Discuss (Megan Cook)..
6. Owing to its Russian origin, Night Watch may present a delightful shock! A cinematographic
tour de force, the film is both simple and yet a highly complex presentation of Good versus Evil. Discuss.
7. Timur Bekmambetov’s
Night Watch is one of the few films
we watch this term which makes
considerable use of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). Discuss its use in the film.
8. In Alive, Kir,
soldier, has returned from fighting in Chechnya. Returning
home an amputee,
he went to war to make money for his wedding. His suffering among the soldier ghosts with whom he
served comprises a story within a story. Kir’s ultimate demise relays something different to each
viewer. Discuss the film.
9. The theme of war
may serve not only as a subject for cinema; it may also serve didactic
purposes. Do you find didacticism in Alexander Veledinskij’s film Alive?
10. The name of the
film is “Alive.” There are so many
levels of interpretation for the title
and its direct connection to the narrative of the film. Discuss these connections as you understand them.