Subtle Revealing Satire
Erika Borsos | Gulf Coast of FL, USA | 01/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Laila Pakalnina wrote and directed this extremely well done satire ... It was filmed in black and white, which hints at the extremes where no gray zones are recognized or acknowledged. The photography and cinematography superbly reveals the lifestyle of Soviet occupied Latvia in the 1950s.
A group of soldiers guard the border ... the border which includes the Baltic Sea. While on duty, they discover a woman's fancy shoe on the beach. They take it to their commander who immediately concludes, security was breached and wants the owner of the shoe found, identified, and no doubt ... brought to justice. Just exactly how are the soldiers who are assigned to this task, going to discover whose shoe it is?
They are sent out on a mission ... in a jeep with their guard dog, a German sheperd named Wilka. They comb a school, some factories, and apartment buildings, looking for primarily young women (although at times any women will do) to try on the shoe to see if it fits. Some of the most humorous scenes are on these searches: the viewer gets a glimpse at mischievous students in a Soviet run school while the shoe is tried on several teachers, one of whom is very attractive the other very much like an old school marm. The soldiers have been threatened with punishment by their commander if they do not complete this mission (although the Commander was imbibing in a rather early morning alcoholic beverage at the time). The soldiers follow the chain of command without question, although there are many mishaps which delay them. They visit a meat packing factory, a street vendor selling some local drink, and an apartment building: all of it depicts the vintage Soviet lifestyle. In the apartment building, they knock on every door and catch different people in various activities. The apartment dwellers are perplexed but compliant, as people who have lived under under Communism for a long time tend to be. The cinematography is especially effective during the searches...
I can relate to the "black and white" view of life under Communism. The film reminds me of several visits I had to Hungary in the mid '70's and early '80s. Once in Budapest, I wanted to buy an orange. I pointed out which orange I wanted but the clerk gave me the damaged one. I told him "I want the other one." He replied "we have to sell them all". I responded "fine, sell the damaged one to someone else, I won't buy any." They would rather let all the oranges rot than do what is logical. Another example is when I arrived at the airport in Budapest, everyone entering had to chose to enter through one of two gates: the green light (with nothing to declare) or the red light (with goods to to declare and presumably pay duty on). I went down the green one where the agent asked if I had anything to declare, I said no. He next asked me to recite what I had read on the sign. I told him I did not memorize the sign but read it and had none of what was listed. He sent me back to reread the sign and wanted to hold my passport. I told him I would take my passport with me as I picked up my luggage to go back. He said, the luggage stays with him to which I replied, "I don't care about the luggage, I care about my passport", which caused a surprised look on his face. Needless to say, the contents of my suitcase were thoroughly inspected. The whole incident turned into a Lucille Ball comedy act but *that* is another much longer story and I digress. If you are fond of international films, enjoy subtle humor, great cinematography, and want to view Soviet life in satire, you will love this film. The film begins at the Baltic Sea ... and ends at the Baltic Sea, with a perfect ending that puts a smile on the viewer's face. Erika Borsos (pepper flower)"
Effective Cold War satire
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 12/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Here's a rarity--a film made in Latvia and commercially available on DVD in the US. The Shoe was originally released in the late 1990s and depicts life in Latvia at the time of the Cold War--mid-50s to early 60s. As a former part of the Soviet Union, this small Baltic nation borders on the Black Sea whose beaches Soviet soldiers patrolled regularly to look for the possibility of illegal entry or exit.
In this story, one morning the Soviets find a single shoe on a stretch of beach and immediately the alarm is sounded. The three soldiers, under the orders of their commanding officer--a fat guy who likes to drink--then "invade" the nearest village to see what woman the shoe fits and subsequently arrest her.
So this is like a wacky version of the Cinderella story, but with a reverse outcome. As the soldier guys move through various parts of the village, we see a microcosm of Latvia, of how life was lived there in those days, and it's a richly satisfying experience. Quirks abound, as shown especially in a really nice sequence of soldiers bursting in on a series of homes, opening the door to reveal something different every time.
Without giving anything away, really, the soldiers never do find the matching foot for the shoe. The ending is one of the funniest parts of the entire film and had me almost rolling on the floor.
If you're a big fan of world cinema, as I am, you owe it to yourself to see this film. Definitely recommended."