17 moments of spring

seventeen-moments-of-springThere are so many TV series out there, one can’t watch them all; not even just the ‘best’ ones (supposing ‘best’ makes any sense when it comes to tastes). Unlike films, series are very much time consuming, and often addictive (actually, for the consumerism cultures we’re totally immerse in, such addictiveness is the ultimate goal of producers, and it is much preferred over quality), and unless you’re as sickly overcritical as I am, or have thrice my free time, you’ll be simply overflowed with the offer and just pick whichever serial is made the easiest for you to watch, or the ones more aggressively distributed and publicized.
And this is how, hadn’t you come across this post, you would miss one of the most and true unforgettable TV series ever: 17 moments of spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny); an excellent twelve-chapter Soviet production from the 70’s directed by Tatyana Lioznova that relates, in a WWII historical background,  the vicissitudes of fictional character Colonel Maksim Maksimovich Isayev, a Soviet undercover agent infiltrated as an officer into Hitler’s SD under the name of Max Stirlitz. The plot covers seventeen moments spread throughout February and March 1945 (not really spring, but well), narrating how Stirlitz struggles to carry out a mission he’s received from Moscow: to ascertain whether some high-rank German officers are trying to secretly negotiate a separate peace deal with the allies in the Western front (that would allow the Germans to concentrate their forces in the East) and, in case affirmative, to try to foil any such agreement. Continue reading “17 moments of spring”

Moscow does not believe in tears

cartelTranscending any genre cage, Moskva slezam ne verit is probably the first Soviet movie I see that does not end tragically. But it is not the less ‘Russian’ for that – not the less touching. On the contrary, it is one of the most captivating stories I’ve ever seen, about a humble woman in pursuit for happiness. It gives a glimpse into life in the USSR on a very human level and from a women’s point of view; and is also a tribute to the Soviet era some people in the ex-USSR still consider to be the best years of their lives.
In 1958’s Moscow, three provincial women in their twenties who share a room in a workers’ dormitory (typical for the time and place) strive for making a living in the metropoli and for pursuing their goals. In a close and endearing way, some of the popular clichés about Russia are depicted, like the unstylish dresses, the worker’s paradise that isn’t, the sharp contrast between the city and the peasants who live outside… And the three different personalities have been carefully chosen in a way that virtually any of us can feel identified with one of them: modest Antonina, bold Lyudmila and responsible Katerina. They are believable, easy to understand, and by the end of the story we have grown quite fond of them, getting a feeling of familiarity, as if they were our personal acquaintances. Continue reading “Moscow does not believe in tears”

The dawns here are quiet

azorizdestikhie1I’m a devotee of Russian cinema because it almost never disappoints me, and it takes in fact a pre-eminent place among my all-times favourites. Títles such as Siberiad, Solaris, Uncle Vania, Dersu Uzala o Moscow does not believe in tears, to name just a few, are among the first in my top list. But today a new film has come to by its own right oust a step down many of the others: I’m talking of The dawns here are quiet (A zori zdes tikhie).
And by saying ‘new’ I don’t mean it’s a release – actually it was produced in 1972 – but that I’ve just watched it for the first time, having never heard of it before. Indeed, because of this ‘hermetic markets economy’ our planet is divided in (European, USAmerican, Chinese, Russian…) not even Culture – or maybe least of all Culture! – is granted free trade, and thus Sovietic cinema very rarely reaches our Western shores. So, it’s only thanks to some acquaintances of mine from the former Eastern Block that I get to know, every now and then, of these cinematographic gems. Continue reading “The dawns here are quiet”

Latvians, embrace consumption!

I leave fair Viljandi behind, and head to the southeast of Estonia, where the roads –I’ve been said– are less boring, have curves and even slopes. And, indeed, it turns so; but because I always take by-roads, now I’ve ended up in a long stretch under construction near the Latvian border, which I hope Rosaura will overtake without any mishaps. I’m afraid I’ve too often temped fate along this long journey, and I’m just too lucky not having yet got a flat tyre; or perhaps tyres are much more hard-wearing than we think.
This region between Viljandi and the southeast border, mainly rural and agricultural, is scarcely populated or developed. Maybe that’s also why it’s so nice: farms and fields alternate with woods and groves in a suggestive mosaic of colours and textures; there are picturesque housings, barns and wharehouses, always wooden and often colourful; some of them look like a Western’s set. Continue reading “Latvians, embrace consumption!”

Tromsø, undisputable Arctic capital

Panorámica de Tromso
Panoramic view of Tromso

Located on the island of Tromsoya and connected to the mainland by two bridges and the Tromsoysund tunnel, Tromso is the second largest city north of the Arctic circle –first is Murmansk, in Russia– and a main cultural centre for all northern Norway. Famous –among other things– for the old wooden houses and the modern Arctic Cathedral (quite a landmark), it hosts several international festivals in summer and makes for an excellent observatory of auroras during winter time.
Along the late middle ages, the native Sami settlers had to share this area with the Norse, who arrived as colonizers from lands more to the south; and though the rich heritage from the former is well documented, they got the mice’s share and today are almost extinct. On the year 1252 the newcomers erected on Tromsoya the northernmost church at the time, called Sancta Maria de Trums juxta paganos, i.e. “near the heathens”, namely the Laplanders; but Tromso was not just a Norwegian outpost in an area already populated by those; it was also a border to Russia: the Novgorod state had the “right” to tax the natives east of here, whereas the Norwegians taxed them to the west. During the next five hundred years Norway’s limits would be pushed eastwards, though, making Tromsø lose its character as a frontier town. Continue reading “Tromsø, undisputable Arctic capital”