Synopsis (courtesy of the two IMDB comments):
Very cinematic Russian tale of alienation and lost identity
I saw this film on a local government television station in Australia called SBS which played it at midnight. There’s something very beautiful about this film which despite being set amidst the cold, harsh landscape of a desolate Russian territory it features the vitally honest, wan, lost eyes of the lead actor (whose name I can’t recall regrettably) whose vivid sense of alienation was extremely memorable. Its a B&W film about a military guard who finds himself lost amidst his fellow guards’ corruption and his own painful sense of duty versus his sense of goodness. Its a classic, familiar storyline but the use of black and white film is extremely powerful. It also contains a homo-erotic theme – obvious in parts like the shower-room scene in which the lead characters nakedness offers both symbolic proof of his feeling of emptiness but also the sad truth that even reduced to nakedness his alienation from fellow guards is unbreakable. Throughout this film the sad beauty is haunting but there are some strong moments of violence. This is a film filled with silences in which the eyes are very much windows to the soul. I found myself quietly reflective after viewing this film.
An insight into the horrors of conscription in the USSR
This film is interesting on two levels.
First, it shows the horrors, the senseless brutality of life for conscripts in the Soviet army.
That the film was made in 1988, during the “Glasnost” period of the final days of the USSR.
The story, a group of soldiers escort prisoners on a train is of secondary importance, the film is really about the combination of petty brutality and boredom that result in a startling outbreak of violence.
The film is very well acted by the small group of actors and the photography, a mix of colour and black and white, is suitably claustrophobic.
The truly scary thing is that it is clear that in modern Russia nothing has changed! The film is a timeless reminder of the problems besetting the Russian army.