Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Famine-33 / Holod-33 / Golod-33

Голод-33 / [Nälkä-33] / [Hunger-33]. SU (UA) 1991 © Kinostudija imeni Dovzhenka – Fest Zemlja, Lesbank. D: Oles Jantshuk. SC: Sergii Djatshenko, Les Tanjuk – based on the novel Zhvtyi knjaz by Vasil Barka. DP: Vasil Borodin, Mihailo Kretov - in black and white with colour inserts - 1,33:1. M: Mikola Kalandjonok, Viktor Patsukevitsh. S: Viktor Brjungtshugin. Cast: Galina Sulima (Darija Katrannik), Georgi Morozjuk (Miron Katrannik), Oleksi Gorbunov (Bilshovik), Maksimko Koval, Olenka Kovtun, Kostantin Kazimirenko, Nenila Svitlintsha, Leonid Janovski, Petro Benjuk, Lev Okrent. Original in Ukrainian. Genre: historical drama. [Announced duration 115 min.] A Dovzhenko Studio print of 96 min screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Tuulia Lehtonen at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (20th anniversary jubileum of independent Ukraine), 28 Sep 2011.

Голод transliterated from the Ukrainian: "holod", from the Russian: "golod".

A memorial to the national tragedy of Ukraine, the 1933 holodomor.

In the last year of the existence of the Soviet Union its Communist Party acknowledged its guilt in causing the famine of 1933 where seven million people died. This is evidently the first movie focusing on the holodomor, one of the most terrible events during "the age of extremes".

Oles Yanchuk presents an unforgettable succession of devastating images focusing on the fate of one family which perishes one by one. First the grandmother. Then the daughter. Then the father and the son are imprisoned. The mother dies of hunger with a large loaf of bread that came too late in her arms. The little orphan son starves during the winter and is a living dead by the end of the film.

Among the most memorable images is the Quixotic attack of the peasants, armed with farm tools only, against the Red Army post which wipes them down with a Maxim gun and rifle fire. The second climax is the unforgettable sequence of the victims being burned alive in a huge pit where the corpses, the still living prisoners and logs of wood are thrown from the freight car of the train. Also memorable is the final sequence of the harvest. The harvest of 1933 is excellent, but there are too few harvesters, and the fields are full of rotting corpses.

The film is mostly in black and white, and the black and white footage looks especially great in this brilliant print. The cinematography is of high quality, but the music track is inferior, and the sound world is not on the same level as the imagery. The general structure and the overall sweep of the movie could be even stronger, but it is highly rewarding to see for its powerful images, excellent performances and stunning visionary scenes with a true feeling of the tragedy of history.

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