31 January 2001 | Caledonia Twin #1
Having read all of the negative commentaries on this film, I would first like to point out that severely criticising the period of Soviet history in which Utoml'ennye Solntsem takes place, and in that effort, condemning the people of that era such as are portrayed in this film as being entirely culpable for their actions, is all very well and good to do from hindsight, and from the safety of a soft computer chair in the modern-day West. Because of course, no one is tortured today in the West for a casual remark against the reigning despot; nor do we live under the threat that our families may be sent off to Siberia as one of the consequences of our actions, great or trivial. I myself can't say what I would have been willing to do under the circumstances that existed during the time of the Soviet purges, whom I would have betrayed just to survive, or if I would have the courage to make some kind of moral, social, or political stand, and if I think I could have? Well,if we all admit it to ourselves, we know that torture will break any man eventually... In watching this film, I think that we should keep in mind that we are not necessarily here to judge but to take the director's journey to another time and place: and yet we should still be able to remember and respect the fact that what we are seeing here is a piece of the history that lies beneath the modern day Russia. This history is a shadow that has cast its pall over the lives of every Soviet citizen since then, including Mikhalkov. The fear of the purges that swept over the Soviet Union during the 1930's and 40's is a kind of fear that will fade, but never die away entirely. So, what can be the point in overly criticising Mikhalkov or any one in the former USSR for surviving under the system as it was before glasnost, knowing what they knew of the state and the full extent of what it could do and had already done (Stalin's purges may even have claimed 20-40 million lives)? If Utoml'ennye Solntsem is Mikhalkov's attempt to exonerate his "cooperation" with the Soviet system within his own time, what has he really got to vindicate or to feel guilty about? That being said, and despite the fact that numerous films, books, and media have copiously used this subject to tell a story, it is not a subject which can be exhausted but a rich treasure of unusual human experiences. And, as some have pointed out, this film is far more than just a story of revolutionary politics or a tale of betrayal: it IS a love story, between men and women, and between men and their motherland. Moreover, I was sincerely moved by the love triangle between Marussya, Mitya, and Kotov. Utoml'ennye Solntsem is not, however, a film that will make you laugh often, and would not at all were it not for the undeniable charm of the bold little Nadya. Utoml'ennye Solntsem will make those who appreciate the tragic element within history, and in particular, this era of political turmoil, shed more than a few tears. Because the truth lingers behind this tale, the truth of a time which was a nightmare few of us can imagine... or would want to. In my opinion, the great thing about this film is that it throws us back for a while into that era and portrays what was good about it, what remains good, despite all obstacles; the film is a tale of love that survives the most extreme of human conditions. It is fascinating and compelling, brave and tender, horrifying, and real. Not for everyone, but certainly a masterpiece within its genre.