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Monday, 9 November 2009

Galina Barina "A Long Time Ago" (1990)












I have often remarked on the lack of publicity given to the great Russian directors. Such is Galina Barina whose filmography is remarkable but Google her name and count the hits. A Long Time Ago (and Part 2) is an exquisite movie of depth, wit and not a little grace. Set in a far off land where dragons rule, it encompasses coruscating satire on the state of our world and utilisation of those ancient myths surrounding the slaying of dragons and sacrifice of maidens. The opening is accompanied by awful synthesised musac that I declare would turn me off entirely if it were not quickly replaced by an altogether more tuneful soundtrack. Therefore ignore the opening musical salvo and enjoy a mechanised world (a city/castle) in which the future is a brave new world where the machine takes the strain. Or maybe not. A block is transformed into an egg only to revert back to its original form in the factory process, young lovers have their omelette/ sandwich made for them by a machine that squeezes out and discards the contents in the process. The pair inhabit a world of high rise apartments dominated by numerous television sets. When the lovers’ peace is disrupted by an invasion of cameras, they are feted in a palace before being rudely separated, the girl given over to sacrifice. This propels her partner to go don armour and do battle with the huge mechanised dragon. The plot development is excellent, the circular and ultimately pointless factory assembly line foreshadowing the conclusion as our victorious destroyer of dragons reaps the spoils of war. Having cuffed governments the world over, Galina adds a swipe or two at our celebrity culture that dominates television screens today even more than twenty years ago when the movie was made. A Long Time Ago is presented on YouTube and, in so far as it is required in a largely speechless movie, translated by Niffiwan who contributes a full, intelligent discussion of a stimulating film that should be far better known.

12 comments:

niffiwan said...

Good job! And you noticed the machine making the food that discarded it in the process. :) I saw that, but I wasn't sure what it meant exactly.

I liked the music in the beginning, myself - I thought it set the "prehistoric, savage" mood quite nicely. And notice how that music returns when their time of being media darlings is over, and the savageness outside comes back to demand tribute from the city?

I wouldn't call the film a satire, myself, though parts of it are (such as the depiction of journalists). It's too serious, and the theme too general. I would call it a parable, rather.

Ian Lumsden said...

Hello Niffiwan and glad you got in touch,
On reflection I do think you are right about it only being partially a satire. But the music still irritates albeit being suited to the film at that stage. Funnily enough I missed the return of the music. Writing so many reviews it is a rare luxury when I can watch a film even twice - to my acute ebarrassment when I get it wrong. I'm going to write some more on Galina's work. Maybe view the material thrice!

niffiwan said...

I think one defining factor is that a satire would mock its main characters and/or subject matter, but this film does not. It is akin to 'The Tree and the Cat' in that respect, albeit with a very different style.

An example of satire in Russian animation would be "Laziness":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmRUeZpsSFA

niffiwan said...

Also, the main theme of the film can be applied to far more than politics.

Ivan Maximov's 1992 film "Bolero" is another way of saying the same thing, but stripped down to a very basic and less serious form:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phNOa9BWBdo

Ian Lumsden said...

Too long to precisely remember I wrote my English dissertation on the differences between Juvenalian and Horatian satire. Just maybe the movie in question has traces of the latter but on reflection it is more philosophically pointing to a universal truth about government and life in general. We move in circles I think. I know Ivan Maximov's "Bolero", though "The Tree and the Cat" and "Laziness" are movies I do not know so thanks for the trigger. I shall get viewing.

collegaproul said...

The author of article had mistake. The last name of director is Barinova, not Barina. Please, no offence. She isn't related to Elena Barinova, who worked at Kievnauchfilm studios.

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