Sunday Night Movie: Sibiriada (1979)

So this is a quite different kind of selection for my Sunday Night Movie series. Sibiriada is a sprawling Russian epic about four generations of families in a small isolated village in Siberia. The image presented in the post is of the character known as The Eternal Old Man and he is the one constant in the story of change and revolution. ( I joked as I watched this film with my sweetie-wife that in a western remake he’d be played by Anthony Hopkins. It would be a better role that that of Sir John Talbot, I can tell you that.)

When I describe this movie as a sprawling epic I am not giving in to hyperbole. The Running time for this film is 275 minutes. That’s 4 hours and 35 minutes of Russian characters, names, and history. It far too much for my sweetie-wife and I to watch in one sitting and so this sia  film we have digested in bits and pieces.

The film starts in the 1800 when the Czars still ruled Russian and it introduces to the feuding families, the wealthy and prosperous Solomins and the poor and unfortunate Ustyuzhanins. Across the decades we watch the families feud and fight, why possessed  by their passion for the land of the small forgotten village of Elan.

We watch as each generation deals with the hardships of their age. The brutal police of the Czars, the chaos of revolution, the struggle for survival in WWII, the desperate search for resources in the fifties and sixties to satisfy the central committee and finally the treat of the land itself being eradicated in the name of progress.

This is not a film for light viewing. It’s dense with a strange narrative structure. There is an element of the mystical  — as seen in part by The Eternal Old Man — which seems at odds with the normal Soviet insistence on realism and scientific processes. (Though the Soviets were horrid about perverted that process for political ends.) However if you like dense films with dozens of foreign characters to keep track of and no sense what so ever of the three act structure, then Sibiriada may be for you.