Jan 262008

We finished Siberiade the other night. It had a lot of Nikita Mikhalkov all the way to the end, and while I still wouldn’t call him a great actor, he at least wasn’t annoying all the time.

I doubt it was the intention of the filmmakers to show the defects of an economic system based on central planning, though one never knows. In the movie, the way to save the village of Elan is to find oil underneath, which will keep it from being flooded for a hydroelectric reservoir. Most of the powers that be think it’s a waste of time drilling for oil, but two high government officials with personal roots in Siberia decide to buck the consensus and go for it, because if they fail, they can’t get exiled any farther than Siberia anyway.

Well, I suppose if you don’t have stock options to motivate you to take risks, the possibility of exile to Siberia as a reward for failure will motivate you to be entrepreneurial.

I would have liked to have seen a lot more of Siberia than just the forests and river that led to Elan. It was nice seeing that much, but I’d also like to have seen Siberian cities, and how the rural and wilderness areas transition to the cities.

We’re now watching Dersa Uzala, and it’s giving us some additional views of what I take to be genuine Siberian wilderness (though I don’t know if it was really filmed in Siberia or not).

I’m finding it useful for language learning. Dersa speaks a somewhat ungrammatical Russian, using the wrong forms of pronouns. But thanks to his limited vocabulary, he ends up saying some things that I can actually understand.

It’s disappointing that the army surveying party doesn’t do any actual surveying. They haul a big tripod around with them, but not once thus far have I seen them set it up and get out their chain and do anything that resembles surveying. I’d like to see some of how they actually did surveying in the 1st decade of the 20th century.