Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mariya (Maria)

This documentary has two chapters that are very different even when they tell the same story. The first chapter was shot in 1978 when Aleksandr Sokurov was an employee of Gorki City Television, but it became his VGIK film school graduation work once the Soviet authorities suppressed his intended graduation work, the feature film “A Lonely Voice of a Man” as it was deemed ‘unfit’. The second chapter was shot nine years later when he returned to the Gorki suburbs and completed the portrait of a tragedy that had been anticipated in the first pastoral section.

The first chapter is shot in color with some scenes in black/white that totally relate to sorrow; it tells about a few summer months in the life of a peasant woman, Maria; but actually tells about how men stopped working the fields (“they’re unhappy”) and women doing all the field hard chores. It is a beautiful shot film with excellent cinematography and some outstanding takes. According to what I read the filmmaker purpose is to communicate his impressions to the audience and to plunge the spectators into a pastoral atmosphere and believe me, he not only outstandingly succeeds but also does it in a beautiful art full manner.

The second chapter is in black and white with a sad mood and elegiac narration (that’s why this documentary is also know as ‘Peasant Elegy’) and Sokurov’s intention was to communicate the fate of a particular person in a particular set of circumstances. But as a spectator you totally get the message of how a way of life disappeared in almost a decade and I am not really sure if it was for the better or for the worst. I believe is open to all interpretations, as he only gives facts.

So with the first chapter he mesmerizes you with a beautiful pastoral tale that at the same time puzzles you with all the women doing all the hard work; then with the somber second chapter he takes you into a dark or grayish voyage into sorrow, obviously done with outstanding cinematography and some very long takes.

For creating two so different chapters and for so successful integrating them into one film with a very interesting story I believe that to me it confirms that Sokurov is a great filmmaker and storyteller; then we have to remember that he was Tarkovsky protégée and he helped him during his early career because Tarkovsky was impressed with his work.

This is a documentary that I strongly recommend to all serious cinema lovers and as a must be seen to all that are interesting to learn the body of work of an outstanding master filmmaker.


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