Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Review: "Alexandra"

After suffering through the cinematic abomination that was Prom Night, it's nice to be able to discover a film that is the polar opposite of that film in every way.

Aleksandr Sokurov's (Russian Ark) Alexandra is a beautifully burnished gem of a movie that is being criminally overlooked. It is without a doubt one of the finest films I have seen so far this year, and with the painfully barren state of the current movie-going landscape, Alexandra shines like a beacon in the night.

The film tells the story of an elderly Russian woman who sets out to visit her grandson, a soldier in the Russian army, at his base in Chechnya, where he fights in the ongoing conflict against the Chechen rebels. Upon arriving at the camp, Alexandra wanders around talking to soldiers, and with her indomitable spirit and ornery charm, becomes a sort of surrogate grandmother to them all.

She also manages to make friends with some local Chechens, and thats where Alexandra finds its heart. It is a film about bridging gaps; between old and young, past and present, Russian and Chechen. Alexandra's bent frame seems dwarfed by the hustle and bustle of the rough desert camp, but her fierce independence sets her apart, and it all seems to bow to her.

Alexandra seems both appalled at what the soldiers are doing but matronly toward everyone she meets. She genuinely cares for these men, and her maternal instincts kick in at every turn, despite her sometimes gruff exterior and her grandson's insistence that she lacks affection.

The film offers a deeply poignant look at a world of eternal conflict, made even more stark when seen through Alexandra's eyes, who sees fellow travelers where others see enemies. The film is ultimately a passionate cry for peace in a world gone insane. Alexandra comes from an older, simpler time when things were not necessarily better, but she is living in a world whose new conflicts don't quite fit in with the world she knew.

Alexandra may be lonely since the death of her husband, but she fills a void in the soldiers' lives by reminding them of the home they left behind, and the film is a haunting reminder of a world in conflict where the old rules no longer apply and disillusionment is commonplace.

Sokurov has crafted a rich and rewarding film, a deeply humanist work of art that is as tender as it is bracing, and one of the most unique and wholly satisfying works so far this year.

GRADE - ***½ (out of four)

ALEXANDRA; Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov; Stars Galina Vishnevskaya, Vasily Shevtsov, Raisa Gichaeva; Not Rated; In Russian w/English subtitles; Now playing in Los Angeles

4 comments:

nick plowman said...

I cannot wait to see this! Very nicely written indeed.

Craig Kennedy said...

I loved a lot of the little moments in this one, but for some reason they didn't all add up to a great movie for me.

I think I'm going to have to see it a second time to really come around on it.

Nice review.

An Instant Star said...

Nice blog you have :)

Matthew Lucas said...

Thanks Instant Star. :-)