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Cast & Credits
“The movie shows the strain of maintaining a correct political line, but not before Barnet has orchestrated some of the most vivid and modern scenes ever of trench warfare.”
J. Hoberman, The Village Voice, 2003
Soviet silent-comedy specialist Boris Barnet shifted tone for his first sound feature, in which World War I and the Russian Revolution are seen from the perspective of the inhabitants of a small village. They are geographically remote from these upheavals but affected by them in various ways – especially when the local shoemaker’s two sons are recruited into the army.
The scenes in the trenches stand comparison with All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and Paths of Glory (1957) for their vivid immediacy, but equally potent is the puppy-love relationship between a German POW and a Russian village girl, conducted against a backdrop of widespread xenophobia.
Barnet maintained a regular (if occasionally suppressed) output throughout the next three decades before committing suicide in 1965.
Wry treatment of serious subject matter is a strong element in Jiri Menzel’s Czech films Closely Observed Trains (1966) and Larks on a String (1969).