Back Aleksandra
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Tuesday, 02 December 2008 at 7.45pm
  • War drama
  • 2007
  • Russia/France
  • Colour
  • 90 mins.

As the son of a Red Army veteran, director Aleksandr Sokurov spent his youth on military bases across the Soviet Union. He clearly draws on his own experiences in this paean to patriotism set against the backdrop of the Chechen conflict. Opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya excels as the haughty old Russian woman appalled by the conditions that her soldier grandson has to endure at a camp outside Grozny. But she also develops an empathy for the enemy after receiving the hospitality of impoverished pensioner Raisa Gichaeva during a visit to the local market. Sokurov's film has none of the politically correct but misguided romanticism of Sergei Bodrov's Prisoner of the Mountains(1996), or the macho nationalism of Alexei Balabanov's War (2002). Yet, while he celebrates the indomitability of the Motherland, he's also aware of its shortcomings and his subtle questioning of Kremlin objectives makes this disconcertingly bleached-out study of civil war stalemate both audacious and compelling.