on 6 November 2011
This film is in my opinion one of the greatest films to ever have come out of Russia. It certainly stands head and shoulders above some of the more well-publicised war movies we've recently produced in the west. It will leave you full of memories of scenes either tragic, moving, magical or gut-renching, and if you watch it in sections as I did, you'll find yourself longing just to find out what happens next. The camera work is incredible, the way certain scenes unfold is testament to the incredible creative vision of the filmmaker, the acting is so very convincing, the sense of menace in some scenes is spot on, and I look forward to watching the just-ordered sequel "The Citadel" in the next few weeks when it arrives. Whatever you do, go buy this now and watch it.
A beautiful, haunting, riveting film, that rapidly speeds up from "Burnt by the the Sun" into a whirling metallic maelstrom. Carries within it, elements of Dr. Zhivago, The Ascent and Come and See, but manages to meld them together in a gut wrenching visual nasty depiction of war. A full blood red technicolour horror, lucid portrayal of the German invasion and Soviet resistance.
Universally derided on its release in Russia, its impact is perhaps understandable, as this opens a festering wound; in dealing with politics, carnage and emotional pain.
The men are trapped in a series of vignettes of horror, as they battle with the world around them; the attack on the troop ship, burning people alive in a church, massacring gypsies, raping women, the dying solider wanting a woman, men freezing to death, all vividly splurged without the searing orchestrated strings of Spielberg.
Not the type of heroics Errol Flynn eased into the frame when he liberated Burma single handedly. Instead this digs into the frozen topsoil and then goes through the strata with an ice pick into the hard rock, to expose the worm ridden skulls. It is not a homage to "sacrifice" but an insight into a mind imprisonment; men entrapped by the fear of violence wafting from the screen, caught within a minute by minute tick tock, forever facing imminent death and watching the muscles twitch.
Religion appears as a secret code, when those who believe seek something beyond the sheer devastating carnage. Belief provides one point of redemption, as Islam/Christianity provides an alternative to paying homage to Dictators. The film has to hang onto some element of positivity, otherwise this gets bleaker and colder than a deep dark Russian tundric winter.
Returning to religion provides a meaning to life however it also leads to disaster, see the "30 Years War" for an equal devastation. Another point of redemption, the true kernel of the film are the human bonds forged, played out between the main characters, as they weave their tragic life stories within the scenery of history.
Beautifully acted, it carries on the father and daughter's story from "Burnt by the Sun" and takes the image of Uncle Joe, then rubs his pock marked face into the mire throughout the entirety. Although the man took Russia to victory, he crucified the country for his own glorification. If he had only known, the films they were going to make of him, 80 years later, when he began his purges/killing/tyrrany, perhaps he would have stopped and reflected. This film is a monument to the will of a people who endured Stalin and Hitler plus everything beyond and since.
Beautifully artistically shot, cast and directed, this is brimming with the most bitter humour, complete without buddy heroics delivering the war of "all against all."
The 1930's and 1940's were times when parents/grandparents lived and survived, this film brings home the full pressure those people faced, the complete antithesis to the paradise depicted in "Burnt by the Sun." An outstanding piece of film-making that makes any war effort produced by Britain and the USA (dirty dozen, where eagles dare" Colditz) just seem "boys own" when it stands next to this. Watch it, it towers as a monument reaching out to the psychological insights of Shakespeare when it meets its true match.
on 2 November 2011
This film's failure in Russian cinemas may well be due to its contrast to the official Russian view of the Great Fatherland War, because 'Exodus' shows there were good and bad on both sides. For instance a Red Cross barge full of Russian wounded is sunk by Luftwaffe Stukas simply because a stupid soldier on board fires a flare at one of them when they are just doing practice runs on the barge. It does not hide German atrocities either, far from it, but was nevertheless perhaps too balanced for the audiences? It even shows a German tank driver with a sense of humour, jokingly handing out a bar of chocolate to a Russian soldier trying to stop the tank with his bayonet! But there are lots of strong and realistic battle scenes here. Some are hard to watch, others moving, others again both. Like the dying badly burnt 19 year old tank man in the film's final scenes, whose simple last wish is so pure and tender.
'Exodus' is perhaps best viewed as part 2 of a triology including 'Burnt By The Sun' and 'Citadel', but also stands well on its own. A full five stars from me.
I think it would be fair to call this film something of a curates egg. Whilst it contains some genuinely powerful scenes, it also contains many of utter stupidity. Picture a German co-pilot hanging his bottom out of his plane in an attempt to defecate on a Russian ship. Not something he read in his Luftwaffe training manual I suspect! Then we have the unusual sight of an attractive young medic baring her breasts to a young soldier as his last dying wish. All very nice, but a step beyond the call of duty I should say! On the other hand we see a young soldier with his legs blown off lying in a field where he is slowly covered by snow, which is genuinely moving, as is a scene where a group of gypsies are gunned down in a moment of madness by a German soldier. The new Russia has made a lot of decent films in recent years, but this one falls short of that high standard.
In the film we follow the fortunes of ex General Rotov, played by writer, director Nikita Mikhalkov, who has fallen foul of another Stalinist purge. The actor who portrayed Stalin was a dead ringer incidentally. As a result he finds himself in a labour camp, and later fighting in a penal battallion. We also follow the adventures of his daughter, played spookily enough by Mikhalkov's own pretty daughter. Did I get a whiff of nepotism there? Rotov amazingly comes through two massacres where he is virtually the only suvivor. To survive one is awfully lucky but to survive two stretches credulity a tad. Rotov then manages to survive in a penal battallion, where if memory serves me right they had an awfully short shelf life. The film then ends very abruptly, and very frustratingly with little warning that there is to be another thrilling instalment. I am not sure that I can wait that long!
There is no doubt that the Second World War was largely won and lost on the Eastern front, where Russia suffered immense losses, as Hitler's army and his dreams died dramatically on the banks of the Volga at Stalingrad. The brutality of the German army on their advance through Russia has seldom been matched in the annals of modern warfare. There is a scene in the film lifted straight out of Elem Klimov's far superior "Come and See", where villagers are burned alive in a barn. It should be borne in mind that the Russians executed more of their own men than the number of British soldiers that were killed in that same war. It was such Russian ruthlessness that eventually won the day. History lesson over, but it is knowing this background that helps an understanding of this film. It is no wonder then that the German's in this film are portrayed as card board cut out baddies straight out of the Victor comic. Russian's have long memories, and who can blame them! A huge amount of roubles went into this film, which is clear from the high production values. Sadly all to no avail as it flopped badly. Mikhalkov seems to have attempted to bring the sort of grand canvas to his film that Vasily Grossman brought to his epic tome "Life and Fate", a book also set on the Eastern front, and one well worth reading I might add. It is a brave but ultimately doomed attempt. His own grand ambition is a dream too far to realise, and the film crumbles in the face of its own vastness, defeated like the German army on the steppes of an immense Russia.
on 20 December 2012
I do not know what to really make of this film? it starts to get interesting then ends up being boring. the battles scenes are spot-on. but,the film seems to have comedy, arguing silliness. I found the film not to my liking and I do regret buying this film.
on 23 March 2012
For me this went on far too long and the plot just vanished early on. Some strange idea's as well. A german airman hanging his backside out of the plane in an attempt to "bomb" a Red Cross ship and being shot in the head with a flare pistol, a remarkable feat in itself. the remaing German planes them blow the Ship out of the water, with the leading lady surviving and reaching safety by hanging onto a mine, which dramactically, then goes back out to sea and sinks a passing ship, which had ignored her pleas for help in the first place. Far too long and rambling film, most of which should probably, have been left on the cutting room floor.