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Harvest Time

Original title
Vremya zhatvy
Running time
67 min.
Russia Russia
Marina Razbezhkina
Anton Silaev
Irina Uralskaya
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Risk Film and Video Studio
Synopsis / Plot
In 1950, Antonina (Lyudmila Motornaya) is a combine driver supporting her husband (Vyacheslav Batrakov), a legless war veteran, and her two young children, one of whom narrates the story as an adult. Antonina is so good at her job that the local Communist leaders award her the Red Banner, a blood-red velvet flag with the embroidered images of Communism's greatest heroes in one corner. A great honor, but Antonina yearns instead for some calico to make a dress. Now, however, she becomes possessed by the struggle to keep the flag safe from the mice who constantly try to snack upon it. Her obsession with the flag comes at a cost to her family, as their formerly pleasant life changes.

Reading that description might lead one to assume this was a satirical portrait of rural life under the yoke of Stalin's iron fist, but it is instead a very quiet film, more concerned with inner emotions than political arguments. There are no extended conversations between any of the characters, and most of the speaking is done by the narrator. That leaves a certain ambiguity to our understanding of events, an ambiguity underlined by the final scene, which takes place in modern Russia and gives a strong sense of nostalgia for the largely unpleasant way of life we've just borne witness to for the previous hour.

The actors are uniformly fine, with Motornaya given the lion's share of work to do as the dutiful Antonina. The real star is the cinematography of Irina Uralskaya, which gives the proceedings an immensely poetic beauty. Finally, the sound design, though it comes across here as rather crude, has some powerful moments, including an amazing scene late in the film involving a pagan ritual. This is not what I'd call an easy film to watch, nor one you might want to return to repeatedly, but missing it would be a mistake.
2004: Nominada in European Film Awards: Best Director
2004: 2 Awards in el Festival Internacional of Moscú. 3 Nominations
2005: Festival Cinematográfico of Trieste: Best Director
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