Controversy hovered around Gherman's first film (shelved for fifteen years), largely because the main character is a Red Army officer who defected to the Nazis in the early stages of World War II. The film centres on his attempt to redeem himself after being captured by a Russian platoon, which is plotting to derail a German supply train. The ex-turncoat becomes a focus of conflict between two of the platoon's officers, a gruff, trusting lieutenant and an immature, over-zealous major, and his professed contriteness is put to the test in a series of skirmishes in the snows of Karnaukhovo. There are plentiful signs here of the Gherman films to come: seemingly oblique and offhand plotting, a strong preference for mobile camerawork, and an emphasis on human values at the expense of the usual ideological pedantry. It adds up to the most interesting debut film in Soviet cinema since Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood, which it sometimes resembles in its glittering black-and-white cinematography, its moments of stasis punctuated by violence, and its sense of larger, off-screen perspectives.
Cast and crew