Run time: 124 min
Genres: Adventure | Drama | History
Director: Aleksey Uchitel
Writers: Aleksandr Gonorovsky, Aleksandr Gonorovsky
Stars: Sergey Garmash, Aleksey Gorbunov, Vyacheslav Krikunov
The action takes place shortly after the end of the Second World War in the Siberian hinterland, among Russians and Germans with damaged personal stories and a strange transformation: the victors seem to be crawling into the skins of the defeated, and vice versa. Ignat, is the embodiment of the larger-than-life image of the Soviet victorious warrior who, in fact, proves to be shell-shocked, sick and broken, although not completely destroyed. Trains become fetish for the heroes of the film, and speed becomes a mania; they virtually become one with their steam engines, while the machines take on human names. The heroes set up an almost fatal race in the Siberian forest, risking their own lives and those of others. Written by Anonymous
|Plot Keywords: siberian, train, steam engine, 1945, famine|
Release Date: 23 September 2010 (Russia)
Budget: $11,000,000 (estimated)
I saw this at the Toronto film festival on September 11, 2010, under the title, "The Edge". I walked in prepared for a heavy dose of Russian gloom. I like Russian literature, especially Chekhov, but I'm always reminded of these lines from a David Massengill song: "What's wrong with the Russians? Have you read their novels? They all die in brothels." In this case, there is nothing wrong with the Russians. This movie grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. Don't get me wrong, this is not a lighthearted movie; it has serious subject matter and complex issues that the characters must deal with . . . and there is plenty of gloom to go around.
Here is the situation in Siberia: At the beginning of World War II, while Stalin and Hitler were still honoring their non-aggression pact, Germans and Russians were co-existing in a remote labor camp. Eventually, Stalin sends his thugs to oust the Germans and declare the Russian inhabitants to be collaborators. At this point the film opens with a young girl running for her life. Four years later, the fighting is over and a Soviet war hero has arrived to work on the town's steam engine. The only Germans left are the illegitimate child of one of the Russian women . . . and don't forget that running girl.
I found myself missing some of the subtitles because I could not take my eyes of the compelling characters and the actors who play them. The standouts are Vladimir Mashkov as the hero and Anjorka Strechel and Yulia Peresild as the women who love/hate him. But his true passion is the steam engine, which he races through the snowy Siberian woods.
The steam locomotive chase sequences are the best put on film since Buster Keaton spectacularly crashed a Union train into Oregon's Rock River in The General (1927). It's as though director Uchitel is rebuilding the train and the bridge Keaton destroyed eight decades ago and a half a world away.
Unlike Keaton's masterpiece, which should have won an Oscar in 1927, this film is Russia's entry into the 2010 Best Foreign Film Oscar competition.
Saw the film last night at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica as part of a special Golden Globe viewing. The subject matter of German/Russian relationships, especially during WWII were some of the darkest moments in either countries histories, so this is not an easy subject for film. I was expecting something dark and brutal, which was not the case. This film utilizes black humor very well, akin to the Czech Film Divided We Fall, but it is not a comedy. The relationship between Germany and Russia before, during, and after WWII, including what the governments want us to believe is skilfully examined via the universal truths of the human experience of the characters in the film. Although this is a Russian film, this does not mean the film is any less relevant to a German audience. You do not need to know a lot of Russian German History to understand the film, but there is one key date you do need to know, that is June 1941, when Germany broke the alliance with Russia and invaded. Great film, hope it wins.
I will not get into details about the movie itself – I like it a lot obviously. I will just try to answer some of the questions raised by some of the people that gave relatively low grade as they obviously did not understand a lot about the movie (probably due to bad subtitles or lack of enough attention) which I, being someone with good understanding in Russian and having quite good Bulgarian subtitles, have noticed:
-This is not a Gulag! This is free labor camp – much different. People there are not imprisoned, are being cared about (clothed, fed relatively good and not harassed to death) while working for the state for something (wood harvesting and transporting I think). The idea is there the "spoiled" collaborationists to be reformed in the right attitude and habits for the "new" society.
– There is a train in the camp as this is the end of the railroad, this is the last station (hence the pun in the title "Kray" which in English means "End"). The locomotive is needed for keeping the railroad clean from snow during the winter and for transporting the harvested wood (second clearly seen in the movie and the first also explained in the film).
– The hitting is not without a reason, but it will take more than couple of lines to explain why for each case. Probably it is hard to understand for people that are not acquainted with the Russian/Soviet "Great Motherland war" (I am not sure if the translation is officially correct though) and the attitude of the whole nation towards the German invaders and the people who supported, helped or even tolerated them (especially men), especially from people who fought on the front.
– "the main hero's girlfriend" is allowed separate room as she is the only one in the camp with a child – this is explicitly explained by her in the beginning of the movie and once again – this is not a Gulag! Please pay more attention before writing.
– About the train over the bridge – it is not something physically impossible. In fact the approach of rushing through an unstable construction instead of going slowly over it makes quite a sense – you pass through it in very short time before it has time to collapse and the inertia you have also helps. If you go slowly – you crush it under your weight.
Overall, I believe that the atmosphere and the "flavor" of the time add the place is captured very well, and the characters are very realistic. I like Russian cinema a lot and probably being Bulgarian who grew during the socialist times and had to learn Russian since lower grades (now I don't regret this) helps me to understand and "feel"better their movies and what they are trying to say. So the movie for me is very, very good and kept me under it's impression for several days (still does). I highly recommend it, especially to people from Eastern Europe.
I hope this review helps someone:)
In 1945, in the end of the World War II, the Russian war hero Ignat (Vladimir Mashkov) is sent to a Siberian labor camp of collaborationist to work as mechanic of the locomotive that transports wood. Ignat has a concussion that makes him lose consciousness and loves locomotives, but is not allowed to be a driver. Ignat meets the Russian Sofia (Yuliya Peresild) that has a German boy named Pashka and he has a love affair with her. When Ignat learns that there is an abandoned locomotive in the woods, he decides to repair the vehicle. But he finds the aggressive German girl Elsa (Anjorka Strechel) living aboard of the train that tries to protect her abode. But Elsa ends teaming up with Ignat and helping him to fix the locomotive and repair of the bridge to cross the river. When Ignat returns to the labor camp, he has a love affair with the outcast Elsa and Sofia is jealous of her. They both are outcast and Ignat and his locomotive "Gustav" are rejected by the dwellers and lives with Elsa in the train. But when the cruel Major Fishman (Sergey Garmash) arrives in the camp, their lives will not be the same again.
"Kray" is a movie with a different story about the lives of persons considered collaborationist by Stalin living in a Siberian labor camp. The relationship among the dwellers is weird since most of the men are alcoholics and the women are promiscuous. It is impressive and also comprehensible the hatred of the inhabitants of the camp and the German Elsa. Movies of the World War II are usually about the Holocaust or the bravery of Americans in the war and it is great the chance to see the fate of these people in the post-war. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Expresso Da Morte" ("Express Train of the Death")