The lengthy siege of Leningrad during World War II cost a million civilian lives. In Alexander Sokurov’s documentary, various people – actors, journalists, students, soldiers – read eyewitness accounts about this ‘historic and cultural disaster’, to use Sokurovr’s words.
In Reading Book of Blockade, Alexander Sokurov allows various people – actors, journalists, school children, students, soldiers – to read parts from the famous book by Alexander Adamovich and Daniil Granin about the siege of Leningrad. The city was besieged during World War II by the Germans and the blockade lasted 900 days – from September 1941 to January 1944 – and resulted among other things in great starvation in the city. The long siege is estimated to have cost one million civilian lives, but the Germans did not manage to break the tough Russian resistance.
When reading eyewitness reports of survivors about the bloody battle and the suffering, some readers in Sokurov’s documentary become very emotional. Sokurov says he thinks the events are at least as tragic and terrible as the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the siege was, in his opinion, an ‘historic and cultural disaster’. His film contains stunning archival footage of the siege. —Rotterdam Film Festival
One of the most important directors in both Russian and world cinema, Alexander Sokurov is considered by many to be the spiritual heir of the great Andrei Tarkovsky. Sokurov — who has enjoyed a long creative relationship with Tarkovsky — has discounted such comparisons, but certain similarities between their works remain indelible: a predilection towards very long takes, natural performances by their actors, and an almost otherworldly use of natural sounds and music. And, perhaps most important, both directors are concerned with the essential questions of human existence and the state of the human spirit.
Sokurov was the son of a World War II veteran. His family moved around a good deal while Sokurov was growing up, and after finishing high school, he went to Gorki, Russia’s third largest city. There, he attended Gorki University and began to work as an assistant television director when he was 19. He continued to direct television programs for the Gorki station until 1975, and… read more