Elem Klimov is responsible for nearly all that we see in Proshchanie, which Ukrainian-born Larisa Shepitko did not live to complete. Based on Valentin Rasputin’s 1976 novel Proshchanie s Matyoroy, Klimov’s labor of love for his wife, who died along with crew members in a road accident, is a tremendous achievement—even though Klimov indulges his penchant for weirdness, caricature and cruelty, thereby disturbing the film’s delicate spiritual roots. Klimov felt he had sacrificed his style for Shepitko’s, but her superstititousness, which Shepitko shared with her elderly protagonist, Darya, created a bond with the material that her widower could not duplicate.
Matyoroy is a remote Siberian island village. The state has determined it must yield to progress; the island will be flooded for the sake of the construction of a hydro-electric dam, the villagers uprooted and relocated to impersonal urban apartments. Some, however, choose to stay behind.
The opening movement is phenomenal. At night the tree-cutters traverse the dark, moon-dappled water to reach the island. We do not see these strangely garbed invaders, only the water with its play of light; the angled camera fools us into thinking that the camera is directly—flat— overhead. The journey thus seems, visually, a climb, an ascendency—but isn’t. At dawn, when the invaders arrive, the perspective also makes the crude dock seem like something that the camera is scaling. These distortions provide commentary on the unnaturalness of the invaders’ mission. Their obscene laughter as they later tackle the job of felling an immense tree perhaps goes too far. Indeed, it is annoyingly convenient that Darya’s own son is charged with the responsibility of directing the crew that prepares the island for its “progressive” fate. —Dennis Grunes
Former first secretary of the Soviet Filmmakers’ Union Elem Klimov was a graduate of the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography, where he studied under Efim Dzigan. Over the course of his long career he made just five films, the most famous being the classic World War II film Come and See. Come and See was in many ways informed by Klimov’s childhood experiences; during the battle of Stalingrad Klimov’s family was evacuated by raft on the Volga. At the 1985 Moscow Film Festival, Come and See won Klimov both the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden Prize. In his personal life, Klimov was married to the film director Larissa Shepitko, who tragically died in a car crash in 1979. At the time of the crash, Shepitko was working on her film Farewell, which Klimov subsequently completed. Klimov’s films ranged from black comedies to historical epics. Later on in life, Klimov had plans to adapt Dostoevsky’s Demons, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita and to make a film on Stalin. However, none of… read more
I would've loved to have seen Shepitko’s version of this. Still, this is a harrowing and fitting tribute to the work his wife left undone.
Interesting and equal parts moving and infuriating story of a russian villiage about to be submerged and erased from the map. A humanistic story framed by a serene almost religious motive or at least a naturalistic one. Runs out of steam towards the end but saved by the final moments contrast between fog, acceptance, denial and return to nature.
One of the rare instances where a movie actually turns out to be even better than the original novel it was made after. Brilliant.