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The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn
The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn
Actor: n/a
Director: Alexander Sokurov
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
UR     2007     3hr 0min

In this evocative two-part portrait of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, director Alexander Sokurov interprets the acclaimed writer s life based on two lengthy talks with Solzhenitsyn and his wife. DIALOGUES is not a straightforward...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: n/a
Director: Alexander Sokurov
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Biography
Studio: Ideale Audience
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/28/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/1999
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1999
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 3hr 0min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Russian
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A real "dinner with Andre"
Kerry Walters | Lewisburg, PA USA | 01/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a remarkable film. No gimmicks, no staging, not even the smoothness that typically suggests "professionalism." Just a magnificent series of conversations between director Alexander Sokurov and Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn is incredible. Filmed when he was 81, his mind is amazingly sharp and penetrating. Although he clearly tires physically at times, his reflections are fresh but at the same time tempered by the wisdom that comes from years.

Sokurov encourages Solzhenitsyn to reflect on his Christian faith, the role of suffering in life (Solzhenitsyn is careful to make a distinction between genuine suffering and the decay or corruption which he sees infecting today's society), the nature of art (there's a fascinating squabble between the two in which Solzhenitsyn defends folk lore as a "professional" art form), Russian literature (his admiration in particular for Chekov and Platonov), literary genres, the purpose of life (to leave life a bit more morally developed than is our nature, says Solzhenitsyn), the oligarchic corruption of post-Soviet Russia, and the west.

Three gems that I jotted down while listening to the conversations:

"We're flooded with so much information that there's no room for the soul to breathe."

"An artist must fight entropy and create other potentialities."

"Beauty is truth expressed through matter."

A fascinating film that sheds light on Solzhenitsyn the artist as well as our age's own spiritual struggles."
Another Russian Treasure preserved
PristineAngie_dot_com | NYC | 07/23/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"In the beginning of Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, a story is told where an expedition at the Kolyma River discovers a fish that has been perfectly preserved in the ice lens for thousands of years. The peasants broke open the ice and devoured the fish on the spot.

In "Dialogues" Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov dutifully preserves Solzhenitsyn on film for generations to come. A slight diffused focused image runs throughout the four part documentary, and many moments (some more magical than others) keep the camera rolling, framed on the author just relaxing, contemplating, and in repose for minutes. It's almost as if Sokurov is in a state of wonder, basking in the notion that here is a Russian great, still alive, and we, in our great fortune, are able to give him proper due.

Sokurov is committed to promoting the legacy and continuum of Russian writers, filmmakers, and artists. He has made films about Rostropovich, Tarkovsky, Dostoyevsky, and the Hermitage.

The film begins with a short documentary (using still photographs) of Solzhenitsyn's life, going through wartime, imprisonment and exile, bout with cancer, exile in Vermont USA, and then back to Russia. The first interview is symbolic and the most magical, as filmmaker and writer walk through the woods on a path, sitting on one bench after another. We get the sense that with each stop and ensuing conversation, he is revealing another layer to Sokurov, and finally, instead of following the path to the end, they opt for an alternate route. The author's wife Natalia Svetlova is also interviewed in their home.

Topics include the review process by which the Solzhenitsyn's provide aid for former wartime prisoners; vocabulary; syntax; war; God; religion; the involvement of Wall Street in the Bolshevik Revolution; the role of the artist; realism in art; the creative process; Solzhenitsyn's 10-volume novel, the Red Wheel; Chekov; the author Andrei Platonov; cruelty; suffering as an enrichment of the soul; technological progress vs. the enrichment of one's soul; and of course, the meaning of life.

It's obvious that Sokurov has not reached the level of understanding his subject has. Some of the questions Sokurov introduces seem less professional and more a schoolboy's eager anticipation to find out what his hero thinks. That's okay. This isn't an interview; it's a dialogue. And the filmmaker should be commended on his willingness to reveal his shortcomings onscreen. How else can one learn?

Though I'm sure it's not intentional, Sokurov sometimes came off a bit surly when he tries over and over again to *lead* Solzhenitsyn in his direction of thinking. The latter, being gracious, let's it go most of the time with a "it's wrong" or "no." Other times, it's almost comical when both men refuse to let up and talk over each other. Sokurov comes off pessimistic (even mopey) in most of his statements, while Solzhenitsyn, who has been through much more suffering and horrible times, seems wise and enlightened. When Sokurov frets on about the existence of extreme cruelty among humankind, Solzhenitsyn advises "it's only human to want to achieve success and have a career...people who did not understand their acts, we don't always have the right to bear judgement on others's acts. Don't look at it as's gives one a flat picture."

What breathtaking humanity!

Absolutely fascinating portrait of a literary, humanistic gi
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 11/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a fascinating, wonderful film. The film consists of little more than the title, Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn. But Alexander Solzhenitsyn is so fascinating, thought provoking, and brilliant, that I didn't mind at all. Sokurov does many bold, remarkable things here with his film. He hardly cuts at all. There are very few "documentary" shots used in the film. There are some stills of Solzhenitsyn when he was young, some stills of his family, but there is very little stock footage used (a common trick used by documentary filmmakers), and there are no fancy graphics at all (which are used ad nauesum by filmmakers today, especially American ones). Sokurov films himself occasionally in two shot with Solzhenitsyn while walking in a park, but that's really the only time you see him. Solzhenitsyn remarks on modern Russia, the lack of spirituality in modern society, the lack of great literature, his time in the Gulag, and his time in Vermont (which is rather charming). His wife is also featured, and she's a remarkable woman in her own right.

Some have complained that Sokurov, who is a great artist in his own right, is annoying and pushy when asking questions. Sokurov has many of the same concerns that Solzhenitsyn has about the world, Russia, and art, so it's a conversation between two artists who have areas of agreement and areas of disagreement. Sokurov doesn't have Solzhenitsyn's stature, but Sokurov is no hack reporter. He's a deeply artistic filmmaker, and he shows a deep respect for Solzhenitsyn by just showing the man. Some will say it's boring, but I found it profoundly fascinating. The film runs 3 hours, but it just flew by for me. If you are interested in Russia, her art, Sokurov, and Solzhenitsyn, you have to see this film."
Unforgettable Film Experience
Billyjack D'Urberville | USA | 10/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is an astonishing and breathtakingly intimate portrait of Solzhenitsyn in the late 1990s, at his country getaway in Russia. Walking the wooded property and upstairs in his writing room, Solzhenitsyn is, at last, finally himself, not a public personna. His work on his vast historical cycle "The Red Wheel" done, he is consciously winding down and permits time for this film project. In allowing it, he also allows for what can be considered a unique addition to his canon, and of a sort he could not have made himself.

If film maker/interviewer Alexander Sakurov is a little awkward in some questions, a little wrapped up in his own puzzles, no matter. Solzhenitsyn is vastly tolerant and comfortable, and a masterful handler and juggler. He gets out what needs be said about his views and methods anyway, including memorable meditations on the Russian language and how he consciously tried to use it -- in an "ideal" sense. Trained as a mathematician (and we see shots of him rigorously home-schooling his own sons in the subject) we thus come to see his approach to language in a mathematician's sense -- use ideal words which must be in the language, like ideal geometrical shapes, even if not in dictionaries. Here too, Solzhenitsyn tacitly understands that his interviewer's lapses are not his own fault, but the sad legacy of any modern Russian deprived of his own history by 70 years of propagandistic dumbing down.

This is a film to be seen more than once which must sobering thought. It moves quickly for its length, and can easily be broken down into 3 separate short films if too much all at once."