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This monitors the dying gasps of a remote Siberian village, its vibrant peasant culture threatened by a government hydro-electric scheme, and examines the conflict - desire for individual happiness versus pragmatic plans for the greater good of society - in balanced, fruitful terms. What really distinguishes the movie, however, and offers allegories for the asking, is the resonant, mystical nature of Klimov's images: Mother Earth, symbolised most notably by a gigantic, seemingly indestructible tree, is imbued with a primitive, pantheistic power, while the engineers sent to raze the island first appear as hazy angels of death emerging from the mists of the lake. As guilt and recrimination, fear and confusion take grip of the villagers, who prepare for evacuation with a mixture of melancholia and bawdy celebration, Klimov paints a haunting picture of the onset of death that culminates in a stunning sequence located in a fearful limbo. All of which suggests Russian ruminations of an impenetrably joyless kind; nevertheless, despite the stately pace and excessive length, the film's assured, elegiac evocation of a virtually pagan world, both defined and doomed by its traditions, exerts considerable fascination.

Release details

Rated: PG
Duration: 126 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Elem Klimov
Screenwriter: Larissa Shepitko, Rudolf Tyurin, German Klimov
Cast: Stefaniya Stayuta
Lev Durov
Alexei Petrenko
Leonid Kryuk
Vadim Yakovenko
Yuri Katin-Yartsev
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