Monday, January 25, 2010

Eclipse Series 11:Larisa Shepitko - From the Current

Eclipse Series 11:Larisa Shepitko - From the Current

Larisa Shepitko (and her masterwork The Ascent) stole my heart last night.

After having her son, Anton, at age thirty-five, under extreme risk of death due to a serious spine injury, Shepitko began to plan her darkest, grandest vision. “At that time, I was facing death for the first time, and like anyone in such a situation, I was looking for my own formula of immortality,” she would later say. Her cinematic response was 1977’s The Ascent.

At once a visceral, earthy evocation of life on the ground during World War II and a momentous, spiritual Christian allegory, The Ascent, adapted from a ­novella by prominent Russian writer Vasili Bykov, drags the viewer alongside two peasant Byelorussian soldiers, Sotnikov and Rybak, as they attempt to evade, and finally are captured by, marauding Nazis. From the film’s opening images of telephone poles haphazardly jutting out of snowdrifts like bent crosses, Shepitko, with cinematographer Vladimir Chukhnov, plunges us into a nightmarishly blinding whiteness, a physical and moral winter that envelops everything in its path—except, ultimately, the victimized and beatific Sotnikov, whose slow journey toward death brings a strange enlightenment. Such redemp­tion eludes Rybak, whose ruthless desire for survival puts him at odds with the Christlike martyr Sotnikov, and Shepitko charts their twinned passages to darkness and light with a stunning arsenal of aural
and visual experimentation.


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