The Italian (2005)
The promotional material and the basic plot outline (a Russian 6-year-old escapes from his grimy orphanage in search of his biological mother) would have you expect a heartwarming, Academy-Award-friendly tale of (what else?) the Triumph of the Human Spirit. But it isn't that. This is a dark, searing account of a human spirit that believes itself deprived of something that may never have existed, one that rejects a future of practically guaranteed contentment and opportunity in order to pursue a spectre - a delusion so vividly ingrained that it becomes more real and majestic than the rare glimmer of genuine hope that can present itself before the eyes of a prematurely disillusioned mind. There is an undercurrent of repressed pain that makes the movie almost unbearable to watch - and results in a sense of relief rather than frustration every time it skips into the machinations of a fairy tale. Writer-director Andrei Kravchuk's remarkable sense of the squalor and atrophy of a battered, post-Communist Russia makes the story's impact that much more immediate.
wr/dir: Andrei Kravchuk
ph: Aleksandr Burov
pd: Andrei Rudiev, Vladimir Svetozarov
cast: Kolya Spiridonov, Denis Moiseenko, Sasha Sirotkin, Andrei Yelizarov, Vladimir Shipov, Polina Vorobieva, Olga Shuvalova, Dima Zemlyanko, Mariya Kuznetsova, Nikolai Reutov, Dariya Lesnikova