A film of stark contrasts: the bitter poverty of the peasants amidst the rich countryside and the simple life of luxury of a few kulaks: beatings, alcohol, a child lost in play, denunciation and murder, the beautiful yet severe changes of the seasons – and an existential contradiction between state pressure and the fragile cohesion of a village community that is inwardly torn apart. The merciless struggle demands bitter sacrifices. The modest emancipation of Anka, a single mother and heroine, offers but little consolation.
Ensemble scenes staged almost choreographically in the severe expanses of countryside and the confined space of the peasants' low huts determine the impact of the imagery, which is atmospherically illuminated, precisely photographed and boldly edited. The images and symbols capture the conflicts in all their harshness. Later, some viewers would see in this an aestheticisation of conflicts. A rare example of a Soviet film in which a barbaric social process is realised in an expressive visual language that transforms every form of harmony into an illusion.
Print courtesy of Cinémathèque française, Paris