Aleksandr Sokurov's previous films have borne such titles as The Lonely Voice of Man, The Degraded and Sad Insensitivity, accompanied by documentary 'elegies' - Elegy, Russian Elegy, and Simple Elegy. 'Why can't America make cinema like this?' Scorsese has asked. The answer is not hard to find. This is not only slow (lyrical), serious (ambitious) and sombre (unironic), it's almost entirely free of narrative, conflict and character development, and manifests such a fundamental disengagement from the dramatic conventions of the medium as to make Peter Greenaway, or even Robert Bresson, look like naturals for the next Hollywood dinosaur picture. In other words, not a lot happens. In a stone cottage, the mother (Geyer) lies dying, old and hushed and frail, tended by her son (Ananishnov). They speak of shared dreams and fears, and he picks her up and carries her through the countryside; the next day he takes another such walk, alone. In place of drama, Sokurov's recourse and inspiration is art, landscape painting in particular. The walks take us through beach, forest and mountain country; Sokurov and his cameraman Aleksei Fedorov compose it in serene, stylised tableaux, sometimes hazy or luminous, sometimes stretched or skewed, emphasising the surface of the film until the locations resemble painted studio backdrops. As a pastoral tone poem, the film is stunning; there are images here as remarkable as any in cinema.
Cast and crew