Larisa Shepitko

Andrey Smirnov & Larisa Shepitko – Nachalo nevedomogo veka AKA Beginning of an Unknown Era (1967)

During the most liberal period of the Khrushchev regime, Grigori Chukrai, director of the classic Ballad of a Soldier, presided over an “experimental studio” dedicated to nurturing new talents. The studio was closed after it produced the three-part Beginning of an Unknown Era, conceived as a memorial for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. The film was shelved and to this day the negative is reported lost. However, a print of Andrei Smirnov’s episode Angel and Larissa Shepitko’s Homeland of Electricity survived – both films were premiered at the 1987 Moscow Film Festival. It is understandable that the authorities might have considered Angel and Homeland of Electricity inappropriate for trumped-up celebrations of the Revolution. Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Voskhozhdeniye AKA The Ascent (1977)

Two Soviet partisans on a mission to gather food contend with the winter cold, the occupying Germans, and their own psyches.

Letterboxd review by Lara Pop ★★★★½:
It rarely gets bleaker than The Ascent. Larisa Shepitko’s tale of perseverance in the face of imminent death surprised me on several counts. For the first half of the movie, I couldn’t figure out the significance of the title. If anything, Shepitko presents its exact opposite. The barren, snow-covered landscape, where death lurks in every grinding step man takes, devours the movie in its all-consuming white death. The shaky camera movement enhances every sound made in the white silence as the camera zooms in on man’s face and outlines the thin crust of ice scratching his cheek with its cold tendrils, stretching, reaching, with one goal in mind: to get to the innermost layer: the spirit; and to break it. It is a tableau of a frostbitten feast, an icy infusion of a deathly descent, straight into the vein. I couldn’t figure out why I was watching a film named its exact opposite. Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Znoy (1963)

Quote:
Heat was Shepitko’s diploma feature, her extraordinary talent underlined by its unprecedented success, winning prizes at the Leningrad and Karlovy Vary Film Festivals. It was also made in gruelling conditions on the barren steppes, the young director falling ill and having to direct from a stretcher. The story fuses serious political drama and cowboy showdown as an idealistic high school graduate goes to work on a state farm, only to clash with its authoritarian, Stalinist leader. Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Ty i ya AKA You and Me (1971)

Synopsis:
Peter, a former medical scientist, suddenly quits his cushy job as a doctor at the Russian Embassy in Sweden and returns to Moscow. 3 years ago his team stood on the threshold of a vital break-through in neurosurgery, but the experimental work was cut short when Peter left for Stockholm. Peter tries to pick up the threads of his old life, fails and runs still further away, to a small town in Northern Russia where he takes a job as a district doctor. But the past would not relinquish its hold on him even there. Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Krylya (Крылья) AKA Wings (1966)

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Plot Synopsis by Clarke Fountain

The director of this film, Larisa Shepitko, was the wife of the distinguished director Elem Klimov and a very promising director herself. Based on a true story, Krylya tells of the efforts of a famous female fighter pilot from the World War II era to make a life for herself in the postwar era. At 42, the present pales before her memories of the past, and of her true love, now long dead. She is unable to come to terms with her past nor with the present, in which she is the director of a high school and the mother of an adoptive daughter. Her attempts to compensate for her distraction all lie in the direction of appearing authoritative, but the students and her daughter, with the unerring instincts of the young, distrust and despise her. In her distress, she is forced even more deeply into reliving her memories of the only time in which she was truly alive, seeking some kind of answer or resolution. Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Rodina Electrichestva aka The Homeland of Electricity (1967)

Quote:
Shepitko graduated from VGIK, where she had studied in the workshop of Alexander Dovzhenko (whom she always referred to as her mentor) and Mikhail Romm in 1963. Her diploma work was Znoi / Heat (1963), made for Kirgizfilm from “The Camel’s Eye”, a story by the Kirgiz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, about a clash of generations in which a middle-aged woman, director of a civil engineering school, yearns for her days as a pilot during World War II and struggles to understand her daughter’s generation. Shepitko’s next project was the short film Rodina elektrichestva / Homeland of Electricity (1967), from the story by Andrei Platonov about the coming of electricity to a Russian village after the Revolution. Frequently compared to the work of her master Dovzhenko, this film, like Andrei Smirnov’s Angel, was shot as part of a portmanteau film, Nachalo nevedomogo veka / The Beginning of an Unknown Century, made to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Revolution. But the films were banned for twenty years, and Rodina elektrichestva surfaced only in 1987, long after Shepitko’s death. Read More »