A Classic Movie Review
Quiet Flows the Don. Directed by Sergey Gerasimov. Performed by P. Glebov. U.S.S.R.: M. Gorky Film Studios, 1957. Accessed August 31, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqHZyzXD-V8.
On a commanding hill above the River Don lies the fictional agrarian village of Tartarsky inhabited for generations by the Cossacks. In the early twentieth century, life was demanding but love, work and play intertwined effortlessly in traditional values of nationalistic pride and righteous orthodoxy. For the most part, loyalties lay with the family, the church, and the czar but life began to dramatically change as events in Europe quickly moved to war and challenged all the foundations of Cossack culture.
The novel by Michael Sholokhov is visualized expertly in this 1957, three-part and six-hour epic. One meets the hero – an equine expert armed with lance, sword, and rifle who gallops off with his compatriots to defeat the technology, the aggression, and the spirit of the German war machine.
Combining the overpowering culture change of Gone with the Wind and the underlying passion of Doctor Zhivago, the director paints the families of Tartarsky as they struggle to recover from the demands of the western war yet meet more direct challenges to their way of life as Bolshevik forces bring death and destruction to their everyday life in the Russian Civil War.
The tragedy of war cannot be described; it can only be felt. This movie is not about winners or losers but the theme that war is a loss for all of humanity.
Friends, relatives, and neighbors are caught in personal value changes and one does not know from day to day whether yesterday’s love is tomorrow’s enemy. Friends kill friends, neighbors betray neighbors, but the family remains strong and survives in the end despite the pressures of emerging Soviet state control ending what remained of czarist loyalties.
Despite its length, the movie was never boring and showed the detailed lifestyle of Cossack families before, during, and after the conflicts that ravaged the steppes of South-Central Russia. Throughout the movie, the director filmed with the majestic River Don as a calm, serene, unchanging background that never slowed for human belligerence, betrayal, or vexation. The viewer cannot help but warm to the beauty, passion, and ardor of the Cossack culture. I can easily recommend Quiet Flows the Don for anyone interested in history, quickening passions, or subtle expertise in modern filmmaking.