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Burnt by the Sun (1994, Nikita Mikhalkov, Oleg Menshikov)

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Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov (brother of the more famous Andrei Konchalovsky) was the deserved recipient of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1995 for this moving and eloquent historical drama. ‘I wanted to make a film to show that while bloody and tragic events are taking place, the beauty of life still remains,’ the director said.

The film is a real family affair, as Mikhalkov cast his young daughter Nadia Mikhalkova as his screen daughter, also called Nadia. Mikhalkov himself plays Comrade Kotov, a military hero who’s retired to the Russian countryside, in the hot summer of 1936, where he lives with his young wife Marusia (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) and their six-year-old girl. Their idyllic rural existence is shattered by the arrival of Russian tanks in a farmer’s field – which Kotov manages to disperse – and then a mysterious stranger, Dmitrii (Oleg Menshikov), who was once Marusia’s childhood sweetheart but now has a key and more sinister role to play in the family’s future.

There’s a wonderfully natural performance by (then) six-year-old Nadia Mikhalkova at the heart of this poignant movie (anyone who saw the Oscars in 1995 may remember Nikita Mikhalkov hoisting his daughter on his shoulders when claiming his prize) and the Independent on Sunday called Burnt by The Sun ‘so exuberantly detailed and densely textured that it repays viewing more than once. Bask in its radiant humour and allow yourself to be scorched by its searing power.’

production details
France – Russia | 135 minutes | 1994

Director: Nikita Mikhalkov
Script: Nikita Mikhalkov, Rustam Ibragimbekov,

cast
Nikita Mikhalkov as Col. Sergei Petrovich Kotov
Oleg Menshikov as Dimitri (Mitya)
Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė as Marusia
Vyacheslav Tikhonov as Vsevolod
Nadezhda Mikhalkova as Nadya Kotova
André Oumansky as Philippe

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