The spectre of allegory haunts every frame of this handsome and intriguing movie, but clear-cut meanings remain elusive. The mayor of a snowbound rural community in the north faces two severe problems: traditional farming skills are dying out because of the exodus of young people to the cities, and too many of the remaining residents are drinking themselves to death on moonshine liquor. Director Lidia Bobrova spreads her dramatic focus evenly between several households, building up a viable microcosm of Russian society in the late 1990s; there are elements of dark, absurdist humour, but in general she's less inclined than her contemporary Muratova to stress regressive and stupid tendencies. Her ending, appropriately enough, leaves us on a knife edge: will the ex-con brought into the village as a mail-order husband turn out to be the community's saviour or its nemesis?
Cast and crew