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The Italian

4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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(May 22, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

For most Russian orphans, the chance to be adopted is a dream come true. But six-year-old Vanya Solntsev has other hopes. After discovering his mother is still alive, the abandoned boy teaches himself to read so as to learn her address from his personal files. Before a wealthy Italian couple can claim him for their own, Vanya sets off on a perilous journey to find his only remaining family. Pursued by orphanage staff and the police, the determined runaway must now face the most difficult challenges of his young life in this incredible story inspired by true events.

The Italian, a film that aims to expose the overcrowded, impoverished conditions in Soviet state-run orphanages, is a chilling portrayal of contemporary Russian life. Director Andrei Kravchuk conveys, from inside orphanage walls, the sense of responsibility that employees feel to the children, and how desperate economic straits drive these same dedicated employees to sell their kids for a few Euros. Vanya Solntsev (Kolya Spiridonov), nicknamed "The Italian," is a six year-old abandoned at birth. His jealous peers envy his invitation from an Italian family to move to Italy, but young Vanya is determined to find his real mother, which means forfeiting this rare opportunity for adoption. Kolyan (Denis Moiseenko), the gang leader Vanya "works" for, and Natasha (Polina Vorobieva), a gentle caretaker, try to convince him otherwise through scare tactics and beatings to no avail. With the help of teen prostitute, Irka (Olga Shuvalova), Vanya learns to read and catches a train to the city, living as a runaway hunted by his orphanage supervisors who want to sell him to The Italians. Shock sets in upon imagining a society of child vagrants roaming Russian streets, not to mention women abandoning children as expendables. Given the tragic subject matter, it is tempting to assume that this is a chronic social problem in Russia, but hopefully The Italian merely fictionalizes an extreme example of this sad topic. Convincing performances by Spiridonov and Shuvalova add to the film's documentary feel. If nothing else, The Italian serves as biting social commentary that is culturally enlightening though heartbreaking. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Yuri Itskov, Mariya Kuznetsova, Dariya Lesnikova
  • Directors: Andrei Kravchuk
  • Producers: Andrei Zertsalov
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Russian (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,557 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Italian" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First, let me say that it strikes me as wholly bizarre that anyone would review this film without having viewed it. Whatever your personal stake in the Russian adoption system is, you should probably air your opinions on it somewhere else, unless you've actually taken the time to view the film (see review below). The movie is absolutely stunning! I speak Russian, so I quite enjoyed the beautifully done dialogue and the rural dialect and accent of the children. The subtitles were well done: yes, one could quibble with some translations, but they captured the essence of the original Russian, which is not something many movies can say. Cinematically, this film is also beautiful: it captures the decay, poverty, and wretchedness of post-Soviet Russia perfectly, and does so in a way that is always moving and never cheap or exploitative. It also portrays the orphans themselves and their problems and choices in a way that is truly insightful. The story itself is also excellent, and the ending is satisfying without in any way being hackneyed or contrived. Moreover, the writing is superb. The characters are all complex, multi-faceted, and believable. No one is two-dimensional, and even the "villains" have some depth and even some sympathetic aspects. If you enjoy deep, rich, and complex characterizations about the problems of everyday life, you will love this movie. If your idea of a good movie is a series of explosions and shootouts, stay away!
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As an adoptive parent of 2 Eastern European Children both in orphanages since birth, I found this movie to be a NEEDED movie to see for those who about to take the strange and unknown journey into International Adoption. It was pretty strange to watch the movie and have the street of the orphanage Vanya was looking for being the same name of the street our daughter's orphanage was on.

We had the rare opportunity of staying in the country we were adopting from for 31 days and lived in an apartment in the city, which was about 40 minutes from the Village our daughters came from. We also were able to visit other orphanages and a TB Sanitarium with a Russian friend who regularly visits the children.

We found the conditions portrayed in the movie to be accurate. When I had to use the toilet, I was led to the "guest toilet". It was an old decrpid shed with a bucket. The stench was so bad, I was willing to wait for a few more hours until we went back to our apartment. Our daughters did not have that privelege. Baths, once a week. Clothing? Old, dirty, holey, shoes too small, if at all, but big ole' smiles on all those little faces hoping that you will take them home. Looks of hopelessness, sadness, despair, no future, no hope. We sat and talk to a group of teens who wanted to know if they could come to America. Tears streamed down their faces as we spoke to them and answered their questions. We brought sanitary napkins for the girls, toilet paper, shampoo, soap, laundry soap. Many times they do without these basic things. They have no running water.

They eat sub standard food and many have permenant health problems because of it.

Both of our daugthers were told they would be killed or sold. They were terrified.
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Regardless of how accurately this film portrays the real circumstances of adoption in Russia, it is a totally absorbing cinematic experience, with a convincing portrayal of the ways children and teenagers actually respond to one another. Many of the children in the film, including some with speaking roles, are residents of a children's home near St. Petersburg.

But the main reason to see the film is the performance of the amazing Kolya Spiridonov in the lead role. He simply lights up the screen, and steals every scene he is in. I think it is one of the best performances by a child actor ever captured on film. Buy it!
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Format: DVD
Italianetz, or The Italian, is a moving story about a six-year old orphan named Vanya (the painfully adorable Kolya Spiridonov). When Vanya is told that he will be adopted by a loving couple from Italy, he becomes the envy of all the other orphans. He's excited himself to begin his new life, until the day the orphanage is paid a visit by another recently adopted orphan's mother. When Vanya has a conversation with the woman at a busstop, he feels his desire to find his own mother growing inside him.

As Vanya sets out to find his mother, he must first learn to read, in order to read his own personal file and see if he can find any information there. Another orphan, a young prostitute (Olga Shuvalova) teaches him to read against the wishes of the older kids. Once Vanya finds the address of a previous orphanage he was in, he sets out on an adventure of self-discovery. The orphanage managers try to find Vanya, following him across the country, but he will not be deterred in finding out the truth about his own mother before he is adopted.

The Italian is a film about the kindness, and unkindness, of strangers. The various people that Vanya meets along his journey reflect the different aspects of our society. Also, the point should be made, that adoption is not viewed in a negative light in this film. To the contrary, all the characters make it very clear that an orphan should feel very lucky to be adopted by a caring family. And the orphanage itself is shown as a sort of co-op where the older children take care of the younger children as miniature parental figures.

Kolya Spiridonov turns in an amazingly strong performance for such a young actor, and he is really the foundation of the entire film, though the rest of the actors are solid as well. We get so few Russian films in the United States that the fact that this movie is for sale at all should tip off most viewers that it's probably a high-quality film. That expectation doesn't disappoint.
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