Alexandra (film)

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Alexandra
Directed by Alexander Sokurov
Produced by Andrey Sigle
Written by Aleksandr Sokurov
Starring Galina Vishnevskaya
Release dates 2007
Running time 90 minutes
Country Russia
Language Russian

Alexandra (Russian: Александра, translit. Aleksandra) is a 2007 Russian film about the Second Chechen War, written and directed by Alexander Sokurov. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

Plot[edit]

Aleksandra Nikolaevna is invited by her grandson, Denis, a senior lieutenant (Stárshiy Leytenánt) in the Russian Army, to visit his military base in Chechyna. Her journey is aided by soldiers who have been ordered to be her escorts. But it is a lawless land; the two young happy-go-lucky conscripts who assist Nikolaevna on to an armoured train are assailed shortly after saying goodbye at the station.

On arrival at the army camp, Aleksandra is taken to her grandson's platoon area and told to wait. But she refuses to sit inside the tents because of the sweltering summer heat. Wandering around, she meets and interacts with the young soldiers on the base. Many are standoffish at first but soon, after she shares some pies, some begin to talk to her. She returns to the tents to find Denis had returned. They hug and exchange pleasantries. Later Aleksandra meets her grandson's commanding officer who shows her around the base; he also questions her as to her reasons for visiting. He explains that Denis is a good officer but the request asking for permission for his grandmother to visit was bemusing.

The next day she decides to leave the cantonments and visit the local market despite the reservations of the soldiers on guard duty. Nevertheless she insists on going so they then ask her to get cigarettes and biscuits. In the town she discovers that many of the locals are hostile towards her because she is Russian. However she soon starts talking to an elderly Chechen woman named Malika who explains she was a teacher before the war. The local lady explains that many of the young people have been irreparably changed by the fighting. Malika gives Aleksandra some cigarettes and biscuits before inviting her back to her war-ravaged apartment where they drink tea and talk.

Aleksandra thanks Malika and promises to return and pay her for the supplies. A local boy is then asked to take Aleksandra back to the Russian army camp. Although initially aggressive to her because she is a Russian, his attitude softens when she tells him that people should not be labelled together and that intelligence is more powerful than war. On arrival back at base, Aleksandra distributes the cigarettes and biscuits among the soldiers. Some then take her to a mess where she is given a hot meal. Aleksandra then returns to Denis' quarters where she finds her grandson mulling over his life in the army after he had to strike a soldier for disobeying him. After talking about their lives (she wants to live more even though her body is getting old), Denis soon brightens up and plaits his grandmother's hair while she promises to find him a wife.

The next day, Aleksandra is woken up by Denis who tells her she has to leave now because he and his men are going on a five-day mission. Slowly the elderly lady gathers her things before making one last walk through the camp saying goodbye to the soldiers she met. At the gate, she says goodbye to Denis as he climbs onto an armoured vehicle and to his commanding officer who silently acknowledges the good her trip has done to her grandson and the men under his command.

Aleksandra then walks back to town where she meets Malika and her local friends. Refusing to take any money for the cigarettes and bisuits, the group walk Aleksandra back to the armoured train. Aleksandra gives Malika her address asking her to come and visit her in Russia. She then boards a rolling car. The train moves off with Aleksandra waving from the doorway. With the train's departure, Malika turns and walks away with a grim expression. Aleksandra rides along looking out across the desolate empty fields of Chechyna.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was shot on location in and around Grozny the capital of Chechyna.

Producer Andrey Sigle also wrote the evocative score.

Reception[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics, although other critics found it to be slow and difficult to sit through.[2] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 85 out of 100, based on 13 reviews.[3][4]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times named it the 3rd best film of 2008,[5] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune named it the 6th best film of 2008[5] and Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named it the 8th best film of 2008.[5]

However, David Fear of Time Out: New York wrote: "Sokurov prefers the sort of deliberate pace that tests ADD-afflicted viewers. This isn’t an opinion: He’s an unapologetic practitioner of crafting “difficult” films, and a proud member of a slow-and-low legacy that extends from Antonioni to Akerman, from Tarkovsky to Tarr."[4]

Japanese film critic Shigehiko Hasumi listed the film as one of the best films of 2000–2009.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Alexandra". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  2. ^ "Alexandra Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2008. 
  3. ^ "Alexandra (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Time Out: New York review: Alexandra
  5. ^ a b c "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 
  6. ^ Aoyama, Shinji; Hasumi, Shigehiko; Kurosawa, Kiyoshi (2011). Eiga Nagabanashi (in Japanese). Little More. p. 271. ISBN 978-4-89815-313-0. 

External links[edit]