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The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn 3/19

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Published on Mar 4, 2012

description source - Amazon.
"In the beginning of Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, a story is told where an expedition at the Kolyma River discovers a fish that has been perfectly preserved in the ice lens for thousands of years. The peasants broke open the ice and devoured the fish on the spot.

In "Dialogues" Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov dutifully preserves Solzhenitsyn on film for generations to come. A slight diffused focused image runs throughout the four part documentary, and many moments (some more magical than others) keep the camera rolling, framed on the author just relaxing, contemplating, and in repose for minutes. It's almost as if Sokurov is in a state of wonder, basking in the notion that here is a Russian great, still alive, and we, in our great fortune, are able to give him proper due.

Sokurov is committed to promoting the legacy and continuum of Russian writers, filmmakers, and artists. He has made films about Rostropovich, Tarkovsky, Dostoyevsky, and the Hermitage.

The film begins with a short documentary (using still photographs) of Solzhenitsyn's life, going through wartime, imprisonment and exile, bout with cancer, exile in Vermont USA, and then back to Russia. The first interview is symbolic and the most magical, as filmmaker and writer walk through the woods on a path, sitting on one bench after another. We get the sense that with each stop and ensuing conversation, he is revealing another layer to Sokurov, and finally, instead of following the path to the end, they opt for an alternate route. The author's wife Natalia Svetlova is also interviewed in their home.

Topics include the review process by which the Solzhenitsyn's provide aid for former wartime prisoners; vocabulary; syntax; war; God; religion; the involvement of Wall Street in the Bolshevik Revolution; the role of the artist; realism in art; the creative process; Solzhenitsyn's 10-volume novel, the Red Wheel; Chekov; the author Andrei Platonov; cruelty; suffering as an enrichment of the soul; technological progress vs. the enrichment of one's soul; and of course, the meaning of life.

It's obvious that Sokurov has not reached the level of understanding his subject has. Some of the questions Sokurov introduces seem less professional and more a schoolboy's eager anticipation to find out what his hero thinks. That's okay. This isn't an interview; it's a dialogue. And the filmmaker should be commended on his willingness to reveal his shortcomings onscreen. How else can one learn?

Though I'm sure it's not intentional, Sokurov sometimes came off a bit surly when he tries over and over again to *lead* Solzhenitsyn in his direction of thinking. The latter, being gracious, let's it go most of the time with a "it's wrong" or "no." Other times, it's almost comical when both men refuse to let up and talk over each other. Sokurov comes off pessimistic (even mopey) in most of his statements, while Solzhenitsyn, who has been through much more suffering and horrible times, seems wise and enlightened. When Sokurov frets on about the existence of extreme cruelty among humankind, Solzhenitsyn advises "it's only human to want to achieve success and have a career...people who did not understand their acts, we don't always have the right to bear judgement on others's acts. Don't look at it as cruelty...it's gives one a flat picture."

What breathtaking humanity!"

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