Review: Larisa

Elem Klimov’s grief-stricken elegy Larisa examines the life of his late wife.


Elem Klimov’s grief-stricken elegy Larisa examines the life of his late wife—the film director Larisa Shepitko—through a series of direct-address interviews and photomontages, set against a mournful visual-musical backdrop. Typically, Klimov films his subjects (which include himself and several of Shepitko’s collaborators) within a stark, snow-covered forest, its tangled web of trees standing in as metaphorical representation of a perhaps inexpressible suffering, the result of Shepitko’s premature death while filming her adaptation of Valentin Rasputin’s novella Farewell to Matyora. Interweaving home-movie footage with sequences from Shepitko’s work (Maya Bulgakova’s pensive plane crash reminiscence from Wings takes on several new layers of resonance in this context), Larisa’s most powerful passage is its first: accompanied by the grandiose final music cue from Shepitko’s You and I, Klimov dissolves between a series of personal photographs that encompass Larisa’s entire life, from birth to death. This brief symphony of sorrow anticipates the cathartic reverse-motion climax of Klimov’s Come and See, though by placing the scene first within Larisa’s chronology, Klimov seems to be working against catharsis. The pain is clearly fresh, the wound still festering, and Klimov wants—above all—to capture how deep misery’s knife has cut.

 Director: Elem Klimov  Running Time: 25 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1980

Keith Uhlich

Keith Uhlich is a writer living in Brooklyn. His work has been published in The Hollywood Reporter, BBC, and Reverse Shot, among other publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle.

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