St. Petersburg

film 2 of 2


Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

Leningrad, from the inside. This is challengingly and beautifully unvarnished. So much quieter than the noble Capra film, and an amazing supplement thereto (or vice versa!). So much of the indescribable, incalculable event isn’t here. Some of what remains is surprisingly run-of-the-mill, or everyday. Look at those wide streets. Look at how powerfully wintery it is. Look at how the feudal, the ancient operates right alongside of the modern. And of course as the siege continues things get increasingly feudal, which is the quotidian flip side of the astonishing idea, the only partially reflected reality of 800,000 dead. The foley work (sound effects—this footage was originally recorded silently) is very effective, and respectful too. It pushes us out of the realm of merely historical stock footage into that of sparse elegy. Here is a great demonstration of how history is an account assembled out of raw materials, and that inevitably, even advantageously, there are many accounts of any event, no matter what the magnitude. And with the power and weight of even the little stuff here, you can’t but conclude that everything in the world is finally magnitudinous. What a fortuitous discovery, what an essential addition to the record. (Special note: water, sleds, the mass graves—it’s not just Nazi atrocity, but the terrible necessity of disposing of all those bodies [and what a range of transport and affect!], the fireworks, the hanging!)