Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Postman's White Nights (orig. Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына / Belye nochi pochtalona Alekseya Tryapitsyna) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing* (V. Surikov) review* (A. Plakhov) review* (G. DiMaris) review* (K. Ignatushchenko) review* (D. Bykov) review* (B. Nelepo) review* (I. Denisova) review* (T. Antonova) review*

The Postman's White Nights (orig. Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына / Belye nochi pochtalona Alekseya Tryapitsyna) [2014] [IMDb] []*[]*[]* (directed and cowritten by Andrey Konchalovskiy [IMDb] []*[]* along with Elena Kiseleva [IMDb] []*) is a lovely / simple / informative Russian feature film (which in the United States would have almost certainly been a classic "small indie project") that went on to win the director two awards at the 2014 Venice International Film Festival.  And it concludes my 2016 Russian Film Tour.

Filmed almost in documentary style and set in the villages along the shores of Lake Konozero in the far northern Russia in the Arkhangelsk Oblast, it follows the day-to-day life of actual postman Alexey Tryapitsyn, who would deliver mail to the various villages along the lake by means of his motorboat during the "white nights" of summer (Presumably in the winter when the lake would be frozen, he'd be delivering the mail differently, probably by some sort of snowmobile).

Indeed, all but two of the people shown in the film -- actress Irina Yermolova [IMDb] []*[]* (who plays something of a love interest to Alexey in the story) and child actor Timor Bondarenko [IMDb] []*[]* (who plays her 10 year old son) -- all the people in the film were natives of the villages of the region. 

So what was life then in these remote Russian villages of the North?

Contradictory ;-)

Even out there in the northern reaches of Russia, where the main means of transport could still be boat, 10 year old Timor tells Alexey that his days as a mail carrier are numbered: "With cell phones and the internet, who writes letters anymore?" ;-)  On the other hand, Alexey can still authentically scare little Timor by taking him to a remote corner of the lake where he tells him he saw a Kikimora (a monster that liked drowning inattentive little kids) when _he_ was Timor's age.

Then Alexey could be woken-up at night by either the crackle of his clock-radio or by the staring of an odd gray cat (who since neither he nor any of his neighbors had owned such a cat, he starts to wonder what the heck was it doing there? ;-)

An older villager, struck-down during the course of the filming of movie by a heart attack before she could be taken (by boat...) to a hospital was buried under the sign of the Russian Orthodox Church and eulogized in a manner recalling her "socialist fervor" in her younger days ;-).

Indeed a lovely (new or restored?) wooden Russian Orthodox church in one of the villages was prominently shown (if from the outside) several times during the course of the film, while one of Alexej's regular stops on his mail runs was the home of a _Russian_ 'Nam Vet ;-), who'd apparently share (again and again) with Alexey the same stories of his adventures in the 1960s out there "unloading rice" for the North Vietnamese during the height of that war ;-).

Finally, while one would think that Alexey lived "at the edge of the world," near the end of the film, Alexey's "regular mail delivering day" is somewhat interrupted as a giant Soyuz-like rocket suddenly appears (LAUNCHED) OUT OF SEEMINGLY NOWHERE (from behind Alexey's shoulder), actually out of the nearby Plesetsk Cosmodrome (!) and one's left wondering WT .. ;-) 

And that then seems to be the film's point: That THE PRESENT is _present_ even in the furthest reaches of the world, while the basic needs and problems of the world REMAIN -- Alexey is at least in part lonely out there (and probably freely admit that he's not necessarily the most exciting of guys) and YES, somebody out there STOLE the engine from his boat (something that while not an insurmountable problem certainly proved to be an unexpected and unwelcome hassle for him). 

Anyway, it all makes for an interesting and for most of us viewers and informative movie.  I learned a fair amount about day-to-day life in the hinterlands of northern Russia that I never would have known before.

Good / great job! ;-)

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