Aleksandr Sokurov’s latest film gets a lot of mileage out of the incongruity of a Russian grandmother fraternizing with soldiers stationed in Chechnya, where they are as welcomed by the locals as U.S. troops are in Baghdad. The titular babushka apparently has nothing better to do than visit her grandson, an officer stationed at the base. Sokurov films the proceedings evocatively through a series of color filters, bathing each sequence in its respective tone of green, gray, or sepia (Alexandra’s nocturnal arrival at the base is particularly painterly, as if the shadows were applied by brush). The boyish-looking troops gravitate toward Alexandra as if to an oasis of their lives left back home, so distant from their desolate routine of gun cleaning, patrols, and watch duty; likewise a daytime visit to the local market sparks an unexpected friendship between Alexandra and an elderly Chechen woman whose initially wary, owlish glances embody the mistrust her people bear against their occupiers. Disappointingly uncharacteristic of Sokurov, the humanist moments that pass between them lean toward token sentiment, and the moments that pass between Alexandra and the grandson she traveled so far to see feel inconsequential. Nonetheless, Galina Vishnevskaya is a sturdy maternal presence in the lead role, speaking throughout in a near incessant, quasi-senile mumble, and the camera’s crawling attention over the stray details of her surroundings seem timed to the noble dotage of her demeanor. For better or worse, the film passes along with the fey twilight of a late Manoel de Oliveira film, content to record another chapter in the steady procession into mortality.
- Cinema Guild
- 90 min
- Aleksandr Sokurov
- Aleksandr Sokurov
- Galina Vishnevskaya, Vasily Shevtsov, Raisa Gichaeva, Andrei Bogdanov, Alexander Kladko, Aleksei Nejmyshev, Rustam Shahgireev, Evgeni Tkachuk
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