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Oh, to be exiled to this Siberia!
on October 10, 2003
Once one gets past the required Marxist dialectic ("rich people bad, poor people good"), there is nothing less than splendid about this Soviet film. The cinematography alone is breathtaking, and the irony of the more adventuresome characters' constant refrain, "They can't exile you any further than Siberia!" is not lost.
The "underdog" family in the film produces men in each generation who shake their fist at their village, rhetorically, and try to get away, but they are always pulled back somehow. As the revolutionary Nikolai says to his young son Alexei, "It's not a good place, but it's the best place for us."
The acting is first rate. Grief, loss, hope, and faith are equally represented throughout the film. Most of the actors are more low-key than in Hollywood films (a fact that allows the Siberian woodlands and scenes of village life, as well as stock film of national events, to play out much of the story). But they do not lack passion. Especially touching is a scene of a youngster grieving for his father. The young actor gives a performance beyond his years.
The recurrent themes and beautiful scenery and music (folk during the rural scenes, electronic during the sped-up, sepia- tinted stock footage) make the six hours of film very easy to digest. Konchalovsky's Siberiade suggests a cinematic Tchaikovsky symphony, with its alternating poignant romance, pathos, and an ending of hopefulness.