Monday, December 08, 2008


Sometimes you really have to wait for good things to happen. It took me almost a year to watch the only movie that I didn’t watch from the five nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in the 2008 Oscar’s. But gee, what a good movie and now I do not understand why it didn’t got the Oscar as from the five nominated this one definitively was the best.

A loose remake of Sidney Lumet 12 Angry Men tells about a 12 member jury in a case of a boy that killed his father with everyone thinking that he’s guilty, except for one jury member that believes is innocent. This is about the only thing that both movies have in common as everything else has been called very Russian, but actually I believe that is more universal than the original movie that I saw a long time ago.

Here the boy is Chechen and as his story is told we have sights and sounds of the Chechen war; then the jury room is a basketball court which is less claustrophobic than in the original, but gives lots of room for characters monologues, duets, triads, and ensemble performances. Then there is a thirteen character, the little bird that totally integrates into the narrative.

I believe that the movie has 12 stories, one from each jury; but also has the boy story, the jury story and the little bird story. What amazes me is how each story reflects a moral dilemma and portraits appalling human behavior that again I believe it does portrait Russian current issues, but also anywhere in the world issues. Then the stories are flawlessly integrated to make one intense drama that could shrink your heart at times while will make you laugh at others.

Some viewers complain about the length (159 min), but me I wanted more and was so sorry when the movie was over. One thing I do complain as I found it out of place and is the end of the movie. I believe when the boy and one jury talk was totally unnecessary as the way the drama went made no sense to have a “happy” ending, not even if one of the characters had the need for redemption.

So the stories are strong with some hard to digest, especially some monologues performed almost to perfection. But the movie as a movie is truly remarkable with extraordinary use of light in the opening sequence, excellent framing in many scenes especially in the boy’s cell; outstanding timing and direction by Nikita Mikhalkov and performances with words and actor expressions that could take your breath away. Bravissimo!

The movie generated a lot of controversy that I believe come from taking the story too literally and not seeing that is not only a Russian but an universal story, so if you are interested to learn about the controversy suggest you Google the movie to find about it. Me, I find the controversy useless and worthless, as the movie is truly engaging even if it does not reflect Russian judiciary procedures. That was just a fictional vehicle to tell the story.

Nevertheless the movie has many accolades and honors like being in competition for a Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice film festival and the nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2008 Academy Awards.

Definitively a must be seen for those that enjoy excellent Russian cinema dramas with compelling stories.

Big Enjoy!!!

No comments yet