A Lonely Man’s Voice

Alexander Sokurov’s first feature, dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky, is every bit as slow, ponderous, and stylistically eccentric as the films of his mentor, though its shape and feel are quite differentand alas, nowhere near as compelling. Still it’s an interesting departure in relation to other Soviet features. Adapted from two short stories by Andrei Platonov and oscillating between black-and-white and color, the film recounts the unsuccessful marriage of a former Red Army soldier (Andrei Gradov), who comes from the working class, and his girlfriend (Tatyana Goryacheva), whose family once belonged to the middle class. The postwar disillusionment of both characters, leading to suicide attempts by each, implies a bleak reading of postrevolutionary Russian life that differs sharply from previous versions. But the most curious aspect of this film is that it unfolds mainly in the margins of the plotit is more attentive in some ways to the settings (an industrial small town in the Ukraine, surrounded by mountains) than to the characters, whom we barely get to know in any conventional sense, and focuses more on moods than incidents. The results are lugubrious but singularan attempt to render depressive internal states cinematically, using everything from slurred motion to brooding inspections of old photographs. (JR)

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