23-05-2010

FNE at Cannes IFF 2010: THE EXODUS - Burnt by the sun 2

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CANNES: The Exodus - Burnt by the Sun 2 is Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov's sequel to his Oscar winning 1994 Burnt by the Sun which also won the Cannes grand prix. It's a tough act to follow but Mikhalkov has made a serious effort. While the first film relies on intense exchanges in a Russian dacha that brilliantly portray the underlying tension and tragedy of the Stalin terror, this sequel is full of non-stop action and epic battle scenes of the Great Patriotic War, otherwise known outside Russia as World War II.

Rumoured to be the most expensive Russian film ever produced, although Mikhalkov pointed out in the press conference in Cannes that the production budget includes both Burnt by the Sun 2 and the further sequel Citadel which will form a trilogy and was shot simultaneously, it is still boasts scenes of epic proportions.

The story begins in 1941, five years after the first film when most of the characters were presumed to have died as victims of Stalin's repression. But General Kotov has miraculously survived the gulag and managed to escape. Presumed dead and believing his wife and daughter Naida have died in a labour camp, he enlists as a private in the Russian army to fight the Germans. Meanwhile his daughter, Nadia, learns her father is still alive and signs up as a nurse on the front while she continues to search for her father.

The film, which Mikhalkov has described as a love story, the story of the love of a father and a daughter for each other, follows the lives of these two people who are caught up in the epic events of battle and war.

There are many impressive battle scenes that would hold up well in comparison to classics like Saving Private Ryan. One of the most impressive is when a bridge is being blown up by Russian soldiers who are trying to clear hundreds of civilians who are still trying to cross the bridge to run away from the advancing German attack. Another memorable sequence is when Nadia is saved by clinging to a mine in the water. Alongside her is a priest who blesses the mine which after Nadia lets go and manages to get to shore blows up a ship that is carrying Stalin's archives and documents to safety instead of evacuating people. The shots of the papers fluttering down like falling leaves are brilliant. DOP Vladislav Opeliants deserves recognition for his masterful work throughout the film.

Overall some of the weakest points of the film are when Mikhalkov leaves the battlefield and flashes back to the more gentle memories of those facing the hell of war. The film was already released in Russia in a three hour version and while the shorter version at two hours plus shown in Cannes does not drag it could have benefited from some cuts. It ends with Nadia and Kotov still searching for each other in the midst of war and the third part of the trilogy is due for release in early 2011.

The Exodus-Burnt by the sun 2 directed by :Nikita MIKHALKOV

RUSSIA

CAST:

Dmitry DYUZHEV - Vanya

Sergey MAKOVETSKY - Lunin

Oleg MENSHIKOV - Mitya

Nikita MIKHALKOV - Kotov

Nadezhda MIKHALKOVA - Nadya

Evgeny MIRONOV - Izyumov