Nationalism

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By Birgit Beumers

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Sample text

A suicide scene is to be rehearsed, and instead of shooting herself Olga fires a blank shot at Fedotov. At this moment the Revolutionaries enter the set to collect the film from Olga. Lebeshev’s camera immediately changes to black and white, enhancing the documentary value of the sequence. They kill Fedotov and his officers, and Ivan takes Olga to a tram and sends her to the city, to safety. However, the tram conductor entrusted with her safety abandons the car, joins a group of Cossacks on horseback, and leaves Olga careening through the fields in the yellow tram.

Egor receives a vote of confidence, and thus has a double obligation to do his job well. His manner is playful and jocular: after receiving his orders he opens the window and sings a song, underlining his vagrant, freedom-loving nature. He seems to have changed little since the end of the war seen in the flashback, while the other four men have grown serious and important: army commander Zabelin, committee chairman Sarychev, district chairman Kungurov, and Lipiagin. In the meantime the invidiously fat and slimy railway pointsman Vaniukin (his name suggests ‘smelly’ – from voniat’ [to smell], voniushchii [smelly]), played by the small and stout Alexander Kaliagin,10 is bribed: danger is looming.

Mikhalkov alludes to the conflict between personal and political that dominates a number of his films, without here resolving it in favour of one or the other. In Mikhalkov’s first full-length feature film his political commitment would be clear, while some of the fragmentation of the narrative, by skipping events and focusing on the consequences rather than the facts, remains visible. The use of flashback to fill in on psychological background would become more prominent and obtrusive. After his debut as a director Mikhalkov continued to act both in his own films and those made by his colleagues.

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