Jul 212008

No movie comments today, even though Alexander Sedov brought up some good topics, and even though I just learned that the great actress, Nonna Mordyukova, died two weeks ago. Her passing deserves more than I’m going to have time to write about tonight.

What I do have is a new YouTube link for learning Russian. It’s a series of videos produced by Viktor D. Huliganov. My wife says he’s like Garrison Keilor. Well, he does have a dry sense of humor and he sings well enough, too. I think he makes his living as an accountant.

I found him by starting with the movie Ostrov. That led me to YouTube clips of Dmitry Dyuzhev, who played Father Job in that movie. Most of the clips are his singing — usually together with Tamara Gverdtsiteli. I happen to like a lot of them, though I don’t know if that’s the kind of music that’s popular among the younger generation.

Some of the clips display the words. Those I find especially useful.

Here’s one of a song titled How Young We Were (Kak molodi mi bili). It led me to want to find a translation, and that’s how I found Huliganov.

Here’s a clip titled “RL 102 – Constructions using Dative”. Following the lesson Huliganov gives a translation of the song and then sings it in a chipmunk voice. I wasn’t sure where he got that, but in other videos I saw that he actually can sing. I hope he keeps producing those lessons. They’re fun to watch, and helpful, too.

Here’s another clip of Dmitry Dyuzhev and Tamara Gverdtsiteli — one that made me want to learn the words of some of their songs. It seems to be a sentimental one that got people all teary.

And is that Barbara Brylska of Irony of Fate who was in the audience, wiping her eyes? Why yes, it is! And after the song I got to hear her voice, too. I was curious about that, because according to Wikipedia her character’s voice was dubbed in the original movie, because she had too much of a Polish accent. She has a deeper voice here than her character in the movie had, but she’s older now, too. (I don’t know if her voice was also dubbed in the sequel that was made 30 years after the original.)

Jul 192008

Three days ago I mentioned the flaws in Ostrov — the parts that didn’t seem put together very well. It’s also possible that they aren’t flaws, that there is a symbolism and profundity that I’m too stupid to notice. Whatever the reason, the Tikhon connection was one that seemed even less well done on the second viewing.

This time I’ll mention a part that was better the second time around. It was the relationship between Father Anatoli and Father Job. Somehow I didn’t catch it all the first time around. Maybe I was looking for the usual movie cliches about stodgy organized religion vs the humble, spiritually-minded maverick, so didn’t expect anything important to come of it. But there is more than that, especially if one follows the references to why Cain killed his brother. The relationship between Father Anatoli and Father Job develops to the end. Neither character quits on the other.

I can’t say that Dmitry Dyuzhev, who plays Father Job, is a good actor. (See 6 second clip above.) Nor can I say that he’s a bad one. The Russian monks with their heavy beards are somewhat limited in what they can do through facial expression, but they can use their eyes. I thought Dyuzhev did well.

It seems that Dyuzhev is no more a long-time actor than Pyotr Mamanov. Instead, he’s a singer. The above clip shows a sample.

Jul 162008


In re-watching the end of Ostrov tonight, I was even more irritated by some of the flaws at the end. The movie is a great one, but now I think the climax is sloppily done. (Go away if you don’t like spoilers.)

One part that bugs me is the exorcism. It’s done well, but the Father Anatoly character doesn’t quite fit. He has already announced that he will be dying shortly, but here he is, looking younger, stronger, cleaner, healthier, and better dressed than he did anywhere else in the movie, either before or after. He wears that heavy coat shown in the above image, where in other winter scenes he’s simply wearing his black robe. And no, it’s not that this scene takes place in bitter cold. There is a pool of water from which he washes Nastya’s face. In bitter cold that pool would have been iced over.

My best guess is that this scene was shot early in the process, while the filmmakers were still trying to feel their way as to how to portray the character. What they finally settled on was perfect. It’s too bad their earlier, less successful experiment (if that’s what this was) couldn’t have been redone.

The following paragraph might be considered a spoiler.

The other part is the final scene with Nikhon. I’m glad it wasn’t done Hollywood style, with hugs and over-dramatization. But the scene doesn’t seem to have made any difference. It doesn’t seem to have mattered much to the characters, and it doesn’t develop either of the character’s characters any further. The first time through I thought maybe I was just too dense to get it, or maybe there was something in the language that didn’t come through in the subtitles. But now, after a second viewing, it just doesn’t seem to work.

It’s still an excellent movie, though. Here is a scene that I just now found on YouTube. It’s one that does work. (Sorry, no subtitles.) It includes the prayer for the healing of the boy. It has especially good acting and good camera work. Note the camera position for that prayer by Pyotr Manonov/Father Anatoly.

Late edit: I said I just now found this clip? I see I had already posted a link to it several days ago. Oh, well.

Jul 152008

I’ve already mentioned how some of the camera work in Ostrov reminded me of Vozvrashcheniye. But it’s not just the camera angles and panning of the scenes on the northern seas. There is a similar washed-out quality to the colors. And some of the music is similar. The use of simple piano and woodwind notes helps build a tension, but gently.

This YouTube clip demonstrates some of the color effects (in the scenes that aren’t dominated by the actors’ presence). But I haven’t been able to find a clip that captures the music.

Well, maybe I remembered wrong. Here is a clip from Vozvraschcheniye. Some of the music starts at 6:30, and in many ways it’s not at all like that on Ostrov. But the pacing and effects are somewhat similar. At least they had a similar effect on me.

I think the two clips do show the similarities in the washed out colors. Northern latitudes tend not have the deep blue skies that one gets near the equator, but the effect was exaggerated in both movies.

Jul 132008

I had read in several places that Pyotr Mamanov became a convert to the Russian Orthodox Church and left Moscow to live in a village. Here is a YouTube clip that apparently shows the village he moved to. I like scenes of peoples’ back yards like in this one, where he goes out to feed his dog and cats.

I wish I could understand more than a few disconnected words and phrases of what he’s saying.

One thing that strikes me from the movie, Ostrov, is how on one hand the character he plays can say to the boy with the leg that won’t heal, “on dobroye” (speaking of God) and on the other he is tormented by his sins and afraid to face God after he dies. But that’s a way that people can be.

(OK, I just now learned that BlogDesk, which I usually use for posting, couldn’t handle Cyrillic characters. But the WordPress editor can.)

Jul 112008


Tonight we finished watching Ostrov. Some random comments:

  • Some of the camera work (and scenery) reminded me of Vozvrashcheniye (The Return), which is the first Russian movie I watched, and which I still think is the best one I’ve seen. I’ll give Ostrov a “5” at Netflix, too, though.
  • This is the first film in which I’ve heard a Russian chorus, sacred or otherwise, singing off-key. I thought it perhaps wasn’t possible.
  • I was surprised that the big surprise near the end wasn’t a lot more surprising for the participants. I presume it was done this way on purpose. I have no reason to think it was due to a lack of acting ability.
  • I see that Pyotr Mamanov really is against abortion.
  • My wife was wondering why Father Job is called Job. Do Russian monks really take that name? And what is the symbolism. Why wasn’t he called Father Cain? He had a good way of demonstrating Cain’s sacrifice.

I’ll be watching it at least once more before sending it back, for language-learning purposes.

Jun 272008

Tonight we got up to section 6 of Ostrov. It’s reminding me a little bit of C.S. Lewis’s, “The Great Divorce.” Pilgrims come to Father Anatoly for prayers and healing, and he has a knack for finding the real problem, which is not necessarily the one they asked for help with. It’s something the petitioners don’t want to let go of, but which they need to do to find joy. (I say joy because it’s a term one might find in a C.S. Lewis book. I’m not sure whether or not it’ll ever appear in a Russian movie.)

This is one of those scenes that we watched tonight. But if you need subtitles, you’ll have to get the version we got from Netflix. (When I watch without subtitles, I sometimes pick up a few words that I missed when I was too busy trying to read and listen at the same time.)
Jun 252008

We started watching Ostrov tonight. (Especially in summer, we only have time for a little bit of movie-watching here and there — maybe 20 minutes on those nights when we have time. On a weekend we might go crazy and watch a half-hour’s worth.)

I was surprised at the reference to abortion. I didn’t know it was allowed to say things like that in movies, even in Russian movies.

This YouTube clip shows the part I’m referring to. It doesn’t have subtitles like the Netflix DVD does, but if I remember right, the girl wants to get a blessing from the monk for an abortion. He says something along the lines of “You’re going to hell and you want to drag me there with you?” (I don’t know the word for hell in Russian, among a whole lot of other words I don’t understand, but some of what I do understand makes me think the subtitles might not be too far off. My memory might be off, though.) The monk advises her not to kill a person and spend the rest of her life regretting it like he is doing, and also tells her she will have a boy. Then he chases her off his island. (The reviews say he is “erratic.”)
I can’t wait to watch the next 20 minutes worth.