The Red & The White [Import]
The Red and The White
Miklós Janscó takes the romance out of Russia's Revolutionary struggle in this simultaneously beautiful and brutal look at the civil war following the Bolshevik coup of 1918. Set in a remote region of Central Russia in 1919, The Red and the White follows the shifting balance of power around an abandoned monastery. The anti-Bolshevik White Army has embarked on a campaign to completely eradicate the area of Red Army soldiers, and scores of Hungarians, former Bolshevik prisoners thrust into battle, are caught in the middle. The graceful camerawork and lush, lovely landscape captured in stunning black-and-white widescreen stand in sharp contrast to the abrupt on-the-spot executions and sadistic cat-and-mouse games of the White Army, hiding behind a mask of politeness and civility as they line up their next row of victims. But Janscó's portrayal of the Bolsheviks, while decidedly more heroic, isn't much more sympathetic. The dreamlike poetry of Janscó's cinema and the surreal atmosphere of doom carries the film in place of a strong story or a central set of characters, but there is no mistaking his sympathies for the victims of the struggle--peasants and prisoners and civilians caught between collision of two armies, systematically stripped of their dignity and their lives as the battle rages around them like an evocation of hell on Earth. It's a brave stance for a Hungarian filmmaker working on Soviet soil in 1968 and it makes for a powerful film. --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
At the center of the movie is a group of Hungarian volunteers who have come to Russia to fight for the Bolsheviks, either in 1919 or 1920. Caught in an abandoned monastery by a battalion of the counter-revolutionary, pro-Tsarist White Army, the Hungarians are let loose, in an apparent gesture of mercy, then hunted down while they scramble along the banks of the Volga futilely trying to escape. No mercy is shown to anyone on either side. Some of the Hungarians eventually meet up with a Red Army battalion, which is wiped out in a quixotic, unforgettable mini-battle with the Whites along the river. From beginning to end, Jancsó squeezes every last drop of "beauty" out of war. Moreover, his refusal to romanticize the Bolshevik struggle in the Russian Revolution led to this film being banned by the Soviets for years.
Visually, "The Red and the White" is absolute eye candy. Jancsó's genius, like Bergman's, is that he recognized the value of silence. As E.E. Cummings put it, "Nothing can surpass the mystery of stillness." There are whole scenes of this movie where the crickets and the grass say more than the people involved. And arguably, the Volga is a major figure in the film, the spectacular and flowing symbol of Mother Russia, a snake more lasting than violence and one that will outlive every blood-letting combatant her banks.
This is a dreamy and labyrinthine masterpiece. Get it. Five stars.
And I'm glad I did.
The second viewing is a real eye-opener. This film is simply extrodinary. Everything that disoriented me the first time, became a feature the second time. "The Red And The White" is one of the most fascinating and unconventional films I have ever seen.
The story involves the attempts by both Red and White Russian armies to hold a monastery during the Russian Civil war. It is told through a series of seemingly simple tracking shots, long takes that pass gently and slowly over the endless Russian landscape. People pass through these frames, on horseback, running, walking, marching, some floating to their destiny -- some we recognize from previous shots but most we will never see again.
Most conventional narrative begins with a point-of-view -- a decription of an event, made relevant by the personal drama of one of the participants. Jansco avoids this almost entirely by using his long takes and graceful tracking shots to capture a geography within which these events occur. How we interpret the actions of those we see is up to us. We aren't participating, simply observing.
There is drama, but not in the conventional sense. Instead of the standard scripted conversations, we hear snippets of arguments: nurses who refuse to seperate their patients by army; a Hungarian who refuses to shoot prisoners; a General organising a massacre.Read more ›
Generally viewed as subversive, The Red and the White problematizes the conflict of the post-Revolutionary Civil War without departing from symbolic archetypes of heroic Reds and barbaric, revanchist Whites. The point is arguable, but the film's politics are at best ambiguous.
Its artistry, by contrast, is not. This is the sort of film the widescreen format is designed for: it becomes incomprehensible without the original picture ratio. This transfer is generally crisp, though the breaks between the original reels are muddy and obtrusive and one loses small, but occasionally important, bits of picture at both right and left ends of the screen; despite which, no film collection of any substance can afford to do without this.
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