From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 2002). — J.R.
The first feature Alexander Dovzhenko made outside his native Ukraine (1935, 93 min.) takes place in a vast Siberian forest on the Pacific coast populated by religious villagers, hunters and adventurers, and Japanese spies, where the Soviets planned to establish an airfield and a city. Frankly operatic in its portraiture and poetic sylization, this Soviet masterpiece began as propaganda but veers closer to pagan fantasy than any of Dovzhenko’s other sound films, and it quickly became a favorite of both Elia Kazan and James Agee when it opened in the U.S. under the title Frontier. As always in Dovzhenko, the depictions of death are especially memorable. In Russian with subtitles. (JR)