Saturday, 14 August 2010


This is a Russian film from 2007 directed by Alexsandr Sokurov. It is set during the Second Chechen War.

A old woman visits her grandson who she hasn't seen for 7 years at his camp. He's an officer, and is still doing his duties, but gets to talk to her here and there. She is quite a strong woman (but not irritating), and visits the nearby village, talks to the soldiers, and basically just has a wander around the area.

This is a very delicate film. Many people won't enjoy it, and will just see it as a woman wandering around a military camp, and that's it. You don't need to know the history or politics behind the war; the director has claimed the film isn't about that. I agree, I felt that's not the perspective you're given. This film isn't what you'd expect from a war film -- I don't know if it is one. There's no action, it doesn't deal with the extreme hardships of war, it doesn't show the mental and physical strain... Unless you want to think deep it doesn't show much.

I enjoyed it. I liked the woman's attitude, I thought there was great cinematography in places, the musical score worked really well. There wasn't an obvious contrast between a war going on and the relationship with her grandson, why does there need to be? I did feel that a lot of the things we are so nurtured with when it comes to seeing war in film won't be found here and can imagine reviewers calling this 'pretentious'.

We always think we know what's going on in war, we think we know what happens, and we've had a lot of that fed to us via newspapers and film. That's what makes this "war film" completely original. An atmosphere that is completely devoid of human comfort with someone's grandmother walking around talking to the soldiers and talking with the locals living in the war-torn country make this film seem so honest.

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