Friday, September 17, 2004

Svoi (Our Own)

Our Own, from director Dmitry Meskhiyev, is a Russian film set during World War II. The movie opens slowly but soon descends into chaos as the Germans attack a Russian town. To avoid execution, two senior officers (Sergei Garmash and Konstantin Khabensky) masquerade as civilians and are joined by a sniper (Mikhail Evlanov), but all three are soon captured by the Germans. While being marched to a POW camp, the three make their escape as they near the hometown of the sniper, Mitya. They take refuge at the home of Mitya's father, Ivan (Bogdan Stupka).

Bitter about his treatment in the past, Ivan is no friend to the Soviet government. But the presence of the three escapees soon force everyone to choose between conflicting loyalties to themselves, to family, to friends, and and to their country.

The film was shot using desaturated colours, giving it a washed out look, similar to other recent WWII films such as Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, although I hesitate comparing Our Own to them because they are really different films. Our Own is less of a conventional war film about the bonds between soldiers or why there are wars, and more of a character study about the effects of war on the people at home and the decisions and compromises they must make to survive.

This can be a very graphic film at certain times, with extremely realistic-looking scenes; a man being run over by a tank, or a man with his throat cut, bleeding to death. But most of the time is spent looking at the characters. On some occasions, the character's reactions seem to come out of the blue, but generally, development is fine, especially with Stupka's character as he is forced to make decisions about where he stands.


I think this is the best Russian movie I've ever seen.

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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