The winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion and Russia’s entry in the recent Academy Awards, director Andrei Konchalovsky’s bold World War II drama is a compelling tale of loss, betrayal and redemption. Konchalovsky (Runaway Train, Shy People) and co-writer Elena Kiselva have dedicated this film to Russian emigres who saved Jewish children in France during the Holocaust. The lives of three characters fatefully intersect after Russian countess Olga (Julia Vysotskaya) is arrested for sheltering two Jewish boys in Nazi-occupied France. Konchalovsky masterfully creates a lingering atmosphere of dread in the film’s opening sequence as Olga tries to fend off an unscrupulous police officer (a memorable, all too brief appearance by Philippe Duquesne), intent on finding the location of her resistance comrades. The director’s meticulous attention to detail accumulates considerable power and scope when Olga is sent off to a death camp only to discover that the two Jewish boys are interred there. But when Olga’s former lover, Nazi officer Helmut (Christian Clauss), arrives in the camp, he rekindles their romance and offers a possible chance for escape. The remarkable black-and-white imagery is claustrophobically framed by cinematographer Alexander Simonov. Echoing the intensity of Laszlo Nemes’s Son of Saul, Andrei Konchalovsky’s deeply spiritual vision is a major contribution to Holocaust cinema. —Thomas Logoreci



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SFJFF37 All-Festival Pass

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