Andrei Konchalovsky – Asya’s Happiness AKA The Story of Asya Klyachina (1966)

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Asya Klyashina is a cook in a small Russian village, lame and unmarried. During harvest time she works at a field camp where she renews acquaintance with Sasha, a driver returned from the city, who announces that he loves her but has no thought of marriage. Mothers look after their children amid the harvest; the men reminisce about the Patriotic War (“fighting for the Motherland, for Stalin”) and about the prison camps after the war. But complications to her life start when Asya discovers she is pregnant by another youth, Stephan.

Review from TVGuide.com:

Filmed in the great tradition of Soviet realism, ASYA’S HAPPINESS also bears the influence of its time (it was made in 1967, but was previously banned), drawing on contemporary New Wave movements in France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. It focuses on Savina as the title character, a cheerful, slightly lame young woman who runs the canteen on a collective farm in the steppes of a Siberian province. It is the height of the sun-scorched summer, and men, women, and children alike tend to the harvest. Despite her difficult surroundings, Savina has a zest for life, and her free-spiritedness has resulted in her pregnancy by a fellow farmer, who refuses to marry her. Another worker, who is less handsome and invites her to live in the city, does want to marry Savina, but she cannot surrender herself to a man she does not love.

A simple, straightforward narrative, ASYA’S HAPPINESS is a monument of realism with personal, cinematic flourishes. Two of the film’s finest scenes are documentary accounts delivered by nonprofessionals (only the three leads are trained actors): the first by a weather-beaten farmer with a mangled hand who speaks of his war experiences, the second by an aging, defeated man who looks back on a wasted life without love or hope. ASYA’S HAPPINESS is not all depression, however. Much of it is a celebration of film, intensified by Konchalovsky’s inspired and energetic camera work. As Asya, Savina shines.

Apparently because Konchalovsky presented his main character as pregnant and unwed–a morally and socially unacceptable characterization–the film was suppressed by Soviet authorities and not released until 1987. With Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, the film again saw the light of a projector; Gorbachev even reportedly commented that it was one of the finest films he had seen in the last 10 years.









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Language: Russian
Subtitles: English

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