Shot in 1966 and subsequently banned for some twenty years, this is far superior to Konchalovsky's later work in America. Basically about a group of villagers working a collective farm, and partly focused on the options open to the lame, pregnant but proud Asya, it is an oblique, touching portrait of a remote community that is both poor and apparently forgotten by the Soviet authorities. Most of the time, the outside world barely intrudes (there is talk of Vietnam, distant tanks rumble); the farm-folk spend their non-working hours gossiping, drinking, reminiscing and, in the case of a selfish layabout and a visiting gypsy, jealously quarrelling over Asya. But plot is of less importance than atmosphere - it was probably the unglamourous vision of village life that incurred official wrath - and the fluid, even virtuoso direction. The black-and-white camerawork is very lyrical, the acting (by a cast largely made up of local non-professionals) lends the film a quiet emotional integrity, and the shifts in tone - from long contemplative shots of landscape and faces to rapidly cut, vérité-style sequences of joyous communal dancing and singing - are effortlessly smooth. Rarely has such a vivid, plausible sense of daily life been conveyed by a Soviet director.
Cast and crew