Burnt by the Sun, Russian Movie with International Awards

Since we left Soviet Union I don’t follow really close cultural news from there. I prefer to embrace the culture of a country I live in, as it helps tremendously with learning of a new language and also with physical and mental accommodating in a new place.

Still, some movies and songs from my old Motherland get to my attention and I even buy them on line to watch sometimes. 

Burnt by the Sun, DVD
Burnt by the Sun, DVD
Nadia (played by Mikhalkov’s young daughter Nadia). This image filled the movie with warmth and special meaning.
Nadia (played by Mikhalkov’s young daughter Nadia). This image filled the movie with warmth and special meaning.
Kotov and his young wife Maroussia
Kotov and his young wife Maroussia
Maroussia and Mitya
Maroussia and Mitya
Mikhalkov carries his daughter Nadia and Oskar award
Mikhalkov carries his daughter Nadia and Oskar award

Not a new movie

The movie I am going to review here is not a new movie, it is Burnt by the Sun (Russian: Утомлённые солнцем, Utomlyonnye solntsem), a 1994 film by Russian director and actor Nikita Mikhalkov. The film received the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, among many other honors.

The first scene of the movie might seem strange as you understand it only at the end of the movie. I don’t want to open the cards right here, as every watcher should comprehend a movie on his own. I’ll just say that the first scene gives an uncomfortable feeling of a threatening of some kind, though you are not able to explain it yet. The whole movie is an alternation of idle if not idealistic scenes with unexplainable tense arousing moments, like Soviet tanks going through a wheat field, or a ball lightning going unnoticed through the house...

The setting opens in 1936, just before Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. Sergei Kotov (Nikita Mikhalkov), an idealistic communist and honored hero of the Russian Sivil War, is enjoying his day off in his wife’s family’s country cabin, or rather a pretty big summer house, “dacha”. His wife Maroussia (Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė), their daughter Nadia, and Maroussia's large and eccentric family of intelligent ex-nobles are shown very descriptively.

Into this idyllic day comes Mitya (Oleg Menshikov), a former family friend who was Maroussia's lover before his sudden disappearance. The family is rejoicing at his visit and a lazy, serene and happy summer day is moving on. However, soon we understand that despite his humorous, friendly nature Mitya has come to this house with a secret agenda. Mitya now works for the Secret Police, or NKVD, and has an order to arrest General Kotov under false charges of spying for the German and Japanese governments.

This is revenge to some extent, as the reason why he left Maroussia was that Kotov forcibly recruited him into the NKVD many years ago. Mitya was then sent to Paris to spy on Russian emigrants. As a result, Mitya hates Kotov, whom he blames for taking away both Maroussia and his own faith in God. Kotov, however, views Mitya as "a whore" who was "bought and paid for" by the Soviet State. He is certain that Mitya's plans to arrest him are nothing more than a personal vendetta. Because of his enormous popularity and his close relationship with Stalin, Kotov is sure that the regime will never dare to touch him.

However, a black car filled with NKVD agents arrives to arrest him. Nevertheless, Kotov's cool, officer's pride remains unshaken. He is still sure that all this is just a mistake and his personal friendship with Stalin will help to clear it.

However, when he tries to leave the car, the NKVD agents beat him. In horror, Kotov realizes where the decision to arrest him must have come from. With his faith in the system shattered, a bloodied Kotov weeps inconsolably. Mitya, who has obviously seen this happen to many men, remains unmoved. The car drives on until a massive poster of Stalin shields it from view.

A postscript reveals that General Sergei Kotov was convicted of espionage and shot. Maroussia was also arrested and died in the GULAG. Both sentences were later overturned during the Khrushchev thaw. Their daughter Nadia is described as having survived and as currently working as a music teacher in Kazakhstan. Mitya - as the last scenes of the movie reveal - committed suicide.

The film was praised and criticized, but no matter what, Burnt by the Sun remains a truthful description of that time, when people did believe with their whole hearts in fair socialism and future communism. People did not realize (with some exceptions that were either keeping themselves silent or were imprisoned), that they were just brainwashed by soviet communist propaganda.

Other Mikhalkov's movies

If you are interested in this period of life in the former USSR, please, order and watch the movie. You will not regret you did it.

Comments 13 comments

Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

 

ReuVera, thank you for excellent review the film. This is best Russian made movie I seen twice. Thank you again.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA Author

Vladimir, thank you for reading and commenting. I am not sure if this is the best Russian movie, but it is very worth watching for sure!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I had no idea you had lived in Soviet Russia. What an experience that must have been. I tried to rent this film from Netflix but it is not yet available. I do appreciate you calling my attention to it as I am a big film buff.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA Author

James, I was born and grew up in Kazakhstan, one of the 15 republics of Soviet Union (former USSR). I remember a special feeling of being tremendously happy (as a child) because I was lucky to be born in Soviet country, and not in some vicious capitalistic America (see, how children were brainwashed by school from their young nails...). My family didn't talk about politics at home when kids were present. People remembered too good how members of a family were disappearing or arrested at night, just because of criticizing the government or even for listening (not even telling, just listening) to some political jokes. 

When children were growing up, some were able to see the real matter of life...

We left to Israel when Gorbachev opened the borders for immigration. I lived in Israel for 10 years.

Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you will find this movie, you'll enjoy it and it will give some thoughts too.


sjk6101983 profile image

sjk6101983 7 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

very interesting to hear about! I'm actually trying to study different countries' histories in my spare time and right now, I'm doing Russia. thanks! =)


sjk6101983 profile image

sjk6101983 7 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

very interesting to hear about! I'm actually trying to study different countries' histories in my spare time and right now, I'm doing Russia. thanks! =)


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Sarah. You will benefit from watching this movie, it'll help you to understand better Russia's history of that certain period.


Madame X 7 years ago

ReuVera - A great hub. I feel extremely hopeful when people like you, who have lived through it (communism), call it for exactly what it is. I also greatly appreciate that you want to accept the culture of the country that has become your home. There is no greater compliment than that. Thanks.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA Author

Thank you, MadameX, for your comments and a nice fan mail. I feel at home in America and I was home in Israel too, as I consider that the secret of successful immigration is to accept the country with the open heart and live into it, work as hard as you can and never take anything for granted.


Bbudoyono profile image

Bbudoyono 7 years ago

When I was a kid there was a powerful Communist Party of Indonesia. In 1965 there was a bloody political conflict. It was the bloodiest conflict in Indonesian history. The CPI was wiped out in just several months. The members were murdered.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA Author

What was your life like when CPI was at power?

I just thought- when animals are fighting for power, then only the leaders are fighting- the winner is a leader, others follow him. With people it's always massive. I just hate violence in any way. I can't suggest any constructive way, though...


Chuck profile image

Chuck 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

Thanks for a great movie review. I want to see this movie now.

I noticed in your profile that you live in Milwaukee and attend college at Marquette. I got my masters degree from Univ of Wis in Milwaukee and lived and worked in Milwaukee for a number of years. It is a great city.


ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 7 years ago from USA Author

Chuck, if you are going to look for the movie, make sure you find a copy with English subtitles.

Milwaukee is really a great city. Actually, Reuven (the son) lives there and attends Marquette University. He has lots of friends from UWM. Vera (the mother) wrote this hub.

Thank you for reading and also for becoming our fan. I am your fan for long ago.

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