Quiet Flows the Don DVD
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Directed by Sergei Gerasimov
Produced in 1957
Main Language - Russian with English subtitles
This lavish and absorbing adaptation of the Soviet literary blockbuster is strikingly photographed, capturing the lifestyle of the Cossacks and the futility of the Great War, writes Michael Brooke.
Winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize for Literature, Mikhail Sholokhov is best known for his four-volume epic novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1926-40), about Cossack villagers negotiating the turbulent course of world history between 1912 and 1922. Since it adapted what was already one of the Soviet Union’s biggest literary blockbusters, Sergei Gerasimov’s film of the book spared little expense: filmed in colour along the banks of the Don river itself, and running a full five and a half hours (it was originally released as three separate features), it contains scenes that anticipate those in Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (made a decade later) for their vast scale and elaborate choreography of thousands of men and horses as they perform suicidal cavalry charges against German machine guns or storm the Winter Palace to the strains of the ‘Internationale’.
But, as with the not dissimilar Gone with the Wind, at base it’s an intimate human drama that begins with an illicit affair between Grigori and the already-married Aksiniya, which Grigori’s arranged and loveless marriage to Natalya does nothing to resolve. As Grigori becomes directly involved with World War I, the Russian Revolution and the bloody Reds-vs-Whites civil war that followed, he not only has to juggle his emotional life but also his sense of identity; what makes this film unusually interesting when set against most Soviet accounts of this pivotal period is that the central characters are Cossacks instead of Russians. Acutely conscious of their distinctive traditions (depicted in considerable detail), the Cossacks are all too aware of how their way of life might be threatened by events taking place thousands of miles away – the women left behind are paid as much attention as their horse-riding, sabre-wielding menfolk.
In particular, the idealistic individualist Grigori is genuinely unsure about which side to take – he feigns madness when meeting a member of the royal family, but is equally dubious about joining the Bolsheviks. More Hamlet than Chapayev, he’s an unusually complex and conflicted protagonist to find in a 1950s Soviet film, and it’s all the more absorbing for it.
Michael Brooke on 11th March 2013
Author of 135 reviews
Strikingly photographed and capturing the lifestyle of the Don Cossacks and the futility of the Great War, Quiet Flows the Don is an epic adaptation of Nobel laureate Mikhail Sholokov's tale of firebrand Grigori Melekhov through ten years from 1912 to 1922. It deals with not only his personal life but the life of his town as WWI, the Soviet Revolution, the civil war that followed and their aftermath fundamentally change the lives of everyone living in Russia, and in particular in his Cossack town on the Don River.
Length: 330 mins
Cat No: RUSCQFD
Format: DVD Colour
- 4 discs
- Russian import
- Film plays in Russian language with optional English subtitles
- English language menus.