22 November 2011 | Skullen
Tough, but needed
This is a beautiful, honest, tough, harrowing, and very necessary depiction of the life of women in Russia in the 1910s/20s, and the unromantic nature of the revolution and subsequent civil war. The film follows Varvara, a peasant woman, who's married off to a drunk. He treats her badly, beating and abusing her, and things just get worse from then on for her. But although the film doesn't shy away from showing the awful things she undergoes, it rarely feels as if it's too much: the action is intelligently portrayed, all the acting is top- notch, and the images are so beautiful that the squalor of Varvara's life is always watchable. Less poetry in the visuals and folk context (the peasants' singing, clothing, housing...) - say if it were set on a modern-day housing estate - and it would have been a different matter, just another depressing kitchen-sink drama. But the setting is fascinating, and it's portrayal artistically justified. The film is truly remarkable and worth seeing. It's a tad long and very intense, but repays the effort.