by Brad Nelson
A weary, but stoic, Russian grandma comes to visit her grandson on the front lines in Chechnya where the troops are no less exhausted. Contrasted with the oppressive heat, the dust-covered military steel, and a bare-bones fort, is Mother Russia herself personified in a grey-haired old woman. But instead of the Russian bear, this is a kindly old woman on a meandering search for her grandchild and what this war is all about. And from the look of some of the bedraggled soldiers, they may no longer be sure themselves.
If you thought it would be crazy to try to make a film where 75% of the action consists of an old woman walking slowly around as if using an aluminum walker, well, you’d be wrong. This is a meditation on humanity, even if it is in the middle of a war zone. The old woman forces us to stop and look and suddenly see everything on a human scale.
But this is not forced sentimentality. The realism is palpable. This is indeed a human scale because there is no camera shake, no quick cuts, no fancy editing, no special effects. It’s just an old woman taking it all in, wandering around the base and asking questions. You see a snapshot of lives that are coming and going and that will undoubtedly be snuffed out soon. You see the insanity of the overall picture contrasted with a quiet saneness of a single person and you, too, may wonder “Is it all that simple?”
The director masterfully says much while seemingly doing very little. This is about as opposite as you can get to Hollywood which strives to cram 20 pounds of crap into every 1 pound of film in hopes of capturing that elusive “something” that only a deft touch, like that of director Aleksandr Sokurov, will likely ever capture. And this film has that. But make no mistake; this is not a shoot-em-up. This is not “The Hurt Locker II.” But for the decaffeinated, you just might enjoy this very thoughtful picture. I give it 3.3 braids out of 5.
A Widow Roaming the Chechen Front, With Curiosity and History in Tow
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Alexander Sokurov’s “Alexandra” — a film of startling originality and beauty — feels like a communiqué from another time, another place, anywhere but here. Mr. Sokurov, a Russian director best known in America for “Russian Ark” (2002), makes films so far removed from the usual commercial blather that it sometimes seems as if he’s working in a different medium. His work is serious, intense, at times opaque and so feverishly personal that it also feels as if you’re being invited into his head, not just another reality. More»
I believe that I had originally seen this on Netflix. But I can’t find this anywhere. Torrent is probably your best bet.