Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Stone Cross / Kaminni hrest / Kamennyy krest

Камінний хрест / Каменный крест / [Kiviristi] / [Stenkorset]. SU (UA) 1968. PC: Kijevska kinostudija imeni Oleksandra Dovzhenka. P: N. Jurjeva. D: Leonid Osyka; rezh.: A. Kozjur; assist. rezh.: M. Schwarz. SC: Ivan Dratsh – based on the short stories "Zlodyi" ja "Kaminni hrest" by Vasili Stefani. DP: Valeri Kvas; oper.: O. Martjunov; assist. oper.: V. Savtshenko - black and white - 1,37:1. AD: N. Reznik; assist. hud.: A. Hartshenko. FX: I. Blazhevitsh. M: Volodomir Guba. Orchestra: Instrumentalnyi ansambl Gosudarstvennogo simfonitshekogo orkestra Ukrainskoi SSR. Conductor: V. Kozhuhar. S: S. Sergijenko. ED: M. Ponomarenko. Red.: L. Tshumakova. Cast: Danilo Iltshenko (Ivan Diduh), Borislav Brondukov (thief), Kostjantin Stepankov (Mihaila), Vasil Simtshitsh (Georgi), Katrina Mateiko (Katerina), Boris Savtshenko (Dmitri), Ivan Mikolaitshuk, Antonina Lefti, Oleksi Atamanjuk (Andreika). Kinopovest. Original in Ukrainian. 82 min. A Dovzhenko studio print screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Tuulia Lehtonen, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Ukrainian independence 20th anniversary jubileum), 27 Sep 2011.

On Dalia Stasevska's suggestion we showed this Ukrainian masterpiece for the first time in Finland.

The Stone Cross belongs to the treasures of Ukrainian culture, and it is easy to see why. It is a stark account of the peasant Ivan Diduh's farewell to his native Ukraine as he and his family leave to start a new life in Canada in the 1890s.  There are three acts in this movie: the thief, the farewell party, and the farewell church service. There is also a prologue with Ivan ploughing his field with his horse on a high mountain slope (reportedly a signature image in the history of Ukrainian cinema). And there is a sequence in the middle where Ivan erects the stone cross on the mountain after the thief has been killed.

There is a sense of real life and real people in The Stone Cross. The compositions are forceful, the moving camera keeps revealing new angles to the situations, and there is a rich variety in the field size from close-ups to extreme long shots. Leonid Osyka has a command of both intimate and epic views. Both the physical reality and the spiritual dimension are present. Leonid Osyka has an original way in his cinematic storytelling.

Osyka is not idealizing the past. He shows the vigilante "justice" to which the thief is subjected. But Ivan refuses to participate. "I'm going to Canada and I don't want to sin anymore." In the farewell party scene there is a rich cross-section of village life. The spirituality of the last act is poweful, and there is no satire in the account of the Orthodox liturgy although this is a Soviet film.

The stone cross is a mystery. Maybe it is Ivan's monument to the martyrs of his native village. Standing on the mountain it is a symbol of transcendence and eternity.

I like the blend of gravity, vitality and a sense of humour in this movie, which would deserve to be much better known.

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