Shot in 1990, but not seen outside Russia until the director took a print to the 1994 Berlin Film Festival, this expressive anti-militarist collage must have come as quite a shock to the Gorky studio which funded it and to the local army barracks which offered manpower and facilities. Both were apparently duped by a fake script, concealing the film's swingeing assault on the brutality, dehumanisation and outright despair that was the ordinary Russian soldier's lot. The film's non-linear narrative encompasses a wider field of concern, however, than the strictly political. While one might rank director Erkenov's work beside that of such mavericks as Tarkovsky and Paradjanov, the Uzbeki-born director is more directly confrontational in using the Russian realist tradition to his own ends, revealing harsh poetic truths about a country whose troops have served in the Afghan war and a recent series of internal conflicts. If the obfuscatory construction makes it hard-going at times, the film has a burning commitment and a forthright individuality that's hard not to admire. Recommended to those with a strong constitution.