Burnt by the Sun [VHS]
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Product Description

Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov is also the star of this tragic 1994 drama about the last happy season in the life of a Bolshevik hero's family. The year is 1936, and Stalin's purges are in full swing. Despite his reputation and revolutionary record, Sergei Kotov (Mikhalkov) seems to be on the dictator's hit list, as indicated by the insulting arrival of his wife's former lover, an agent of government police. Mikhalkov treats all this as a matter of personal and political intrigue dropping like rotting fruit in the middle of a sunny and loving period for the Kotov clan. The director ingeniously understates the mounting threat until one begins to realize that the Kotovs are only geographically distant from the long, bloody reach of Stalin. By the time we do realize it, the shock of change is almost unbearable. A very fine movie all around, though Mikhalkov's touches of magic realism (particularly the presence of a golden orb that keeps popping into the action) are distracting and a subject of controversy among viewers. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews:

  • Worth Every Minute
    If you don't like to watch foreign films because of the subtitles, then you're depriving yourself of great tales such as this one. Every minute the viewer gives to this film is more than repaid.

    Under the rays of a Stalinist sun, a story of tragic heroism becomes illuminated against the "fertile" landscape of communist Russia. The threads of a few seemingly disconnected lives weave together to provide a portrait of characters in various stages of maturity: the pitiful self-destructive bitterness of a talented young man, the guarded confusion of a young wife preoccupied with doubt, the grace under fire of an anti-hero learning to accept and savor life, and the innocent precocity of a little girl caught in the middle of it all. The stark brevity of the language, which is utilized masterfully by an excellent cast, lends a heartbreaking poetry to the backdrop of a "common wealth" among comrades. The director then brings this script to life with scenery choices and visual tricks that would make any baby filmmaker drool. All in all, this was one of the films that helped to form me as an artistic person, and I am certain that it will move anyone who draws breath....more info
  • Incredible
    As a student of Russian History, I sat in awe through this entire film. While my studies gave me a perspective slightly different from most of this film's viewers, I cannot give anything aside from a resounding recommendation. The pervasive symbolism of the plot leaves a tremendous impact on the heart and the mind. The acting and directing are brilliant, the story incredibly simple and at the same time deeply complicated. A truly amazing experience....more info
  • Mint condition, not just New
    Talk about new dondition. It seems like this video was touch only by gloved hands. It is in MINT condition. Wow!! I'm totally impressed.
    I really will continue buying from this company. Also, this was delivered even before things I ordered before it. I'm still waiting on 4 videos that I ordered about a week before this one. I really recommend this company if you want to get your videos fast and in the condition stated by the company....more info
  • A country holiday!
    A Russian revolutionary decides to rest for few days of a brief holiday. But, the arrival of his young wife ` s former lover will upset all the plans. Watch for the purges of the nastiest tyranny of the XX Century: the iron fist 's man: Joseph Stalin.

    Excellent testimonial that deserved an Academy Award.

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  • Stalin's Terror
    This film is a painful look at the effect Stalin's terror had on even his closest officials. The film itself is beautiful, set at a peaceful country "dacha". The action begins to pick up when Mitya arrives. The Mitya and Kotov characters provide an interesting contrast of Russian men. Mitya is a hollowed out soul searching for reminents of his past life and Kotov is the ideal Russian who always believes in his homeland. Several scenes are very poignant, particularly the one where Marussia realizes that Mitya has returned. The conclusion is painful and frightening, but that is how Stalin's crimes were to the Russian people....more info
  • Not "one of those perestroika films"
    I am surprised that so few reviews acknowledge Mikhalkov's subtlety in this film and the masterful way in which he allows the plot to unfold. I strongly advise viewers not to go into this looking for the prefabricated "good guy" and "bad guy." There were so many layers to what was happening, and Mikhalkov never created such binaries. With a rudimentary knowledge of revolutionary history and/or a good intuition, the viewer will notice that there is an underlying tension in the Kotov home even before Mitya's arrival--between the old guard and their "bourgeois" values and the commander's ideals. [Not to read if you haven't seen the film: While undeniably kind and typically good-hearted, his response to Mitya is nothing if not passive-aggressive. He later takes his aggression out on his wife in what is, by Western standards, certainly rape, a little self-righteous manipulation, and above all, a statement of ownership. This demonstrates that Kotov is not as sure about the security offered him by Comrade Stalin as reviewers remarking on a "sudden breakdown" are offering. Not having much background on the story, I expected Kotov to become the prototypical Soviet bad guy (especially in the scene upstairs with his wife), if anyone. And Mitya is certainly not lacking in conscience; we see him wavering up to and including the truck driver's final scene. They were all "burnt" in different ways. I could go on.]

    What is most stunning is how the viewer is handed small clues that serve to build doubt over the course of the film and it is only toward the end that anything is clarified. None of these characters were held us as heroes, enemies, or even victims -- all of them played some part in building and sustaining the system they were living under, from the bourgeois woman in her mid-summer fur coat to the charming and wounded NKVD officer whose bitter indifference toward the fate of others eventually cuts him like a broken glass left behind.

    I truly hope that, for nothing if not viewing pleasure, reviewers can cease to categorize this film as just another one of those cathartic, "look how bad Stalin was" movies. Masterful though such films may be (I myself find the seminal "Repentance" one of the most touching and beautiful movies of that period), this is a different animal -- a little more subtle, a little more human, and heart-wrenching in an utterly different way. It really struck a balance between excessive nuance and melodrama. I see more and feel more each time I watch it....more info
  • The best movie about the Stalin era.
    It is very difficult to express one's opinion about this film. First of all - no offence but only Russian can understand it. I really liked Mikhalkov before but started respecting him much more after seing this one. This movie finally shows that there is no one to blame for what was going on at the time - EVERYONE WAS INVOLVED. Pretty close to the times of whitch hunt in this country....more info
  • This movie truly expressed the terror of the Stalinist era
    This movie was incredibly powerful. My father is from the former Soviet Union and grew up during the Stalinist era. I also wrote a paper on the Russian Civil War, and this movie clearly demonstrated the terror that was a product of the Revolution and Civil War. With basic knowledge about the time and situation in the Soviet Union, this movie is incredibly powerful and meaningful....more info
  • Two movies for the price of one
    Viewers (this includes most of the professional reviewers) who saw this movie as the last day of freedom for Kotov, an up-from-the ranks Soviet hero, beloved by his men and honored by a grateful nation, saw only half the movie. The charming family enjoying a lazy summer day in the country, the devotion between Kotov and his daughter while doubting his wife's fidelity and his growing realization that his friend, Stalin, has ordered his arrest is movie enough! But there is more....
    At second look, the family life is far from idyllic. The family (the dacha is theirs, not Kotov's) are the wife, daughter, relatives, friends of Boris the famous Bolshoi Theater conductor. They are retired artists and intellectuals who had mingled with the royal family before the revolution. They regard the Soviet regime as a kind of occupation and must be careful about what they say in Kotov's presence. Clearly he would like to assume Boris' place as head of the family, but they regard him as declasse', a braggart, and a bully. In the famous boat scene, the hero father has only platitudes to offer his daughter. His view of national progress lies in technological advances. He plays baby games with this exceptional little girl who longs for the kind of challenge that Mitya will offer her.

    The second hero is Mitya, beloved of Boris and his family, who greet him as the prodigal son, coming alive to his laughter and music. They see him as Boris' rightful heir, a kind of Hamlet-- home to clean house. Unlike his adopted family, he has been unable to escape direct conflict with the Soviet regime. As an White Army exile, he had made a deal with the devil, the infamous NKVD, in order to return home. But Kotov has sent him away again, for a total of almost 20 years abroad. At the beginning of the film he gambles his life against taking his misery home. When he finally agrees to go, his aim is to clean up his act (the washing of the steps in Red Square). He is not an assassin-IT IS STALIN WHO ORDERED THE ARREST--but he will take revenge on the man who robbed him of his life.

    Although the men engage in competitions (including a dance competition!) throughout the day, Nadya (literally) leads them out of the woods of such futility. Both men will lose. Only Stalin is the winner! Neither man is a villain; both deserve compassion. Poor Kotov finally broke--I believe it was because of his acknowledgment of his own complicity in the truckdriver's murder--groaning his way to Moscow. But the dirge in the cellos was for Mitya, signalling the death of his soul. Supported by his family's love, he had almost achieved redemption, but the incident with the truck driver demanded the concentration of the NKVD man. His series of errors in the car led inevitably to the truck driver's death. I hated him so much as he gathered his white coat about him and entered the car on the opposite side, that his suicide had little effect on me. So why did I mourn him for weeks and weeks?




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  • An excellent , emotional tragedy of Communist Russia
    This film breaches the boundaries of nationality, language, and history in order to display the spirit of the Russian people and the horrible times this people has been through. The plot is a beatiful tragedy. Alexei Kotov, a hero of the Russian Revolution, is living out his last day with his family, to be taken away and executed by Stalin's secret police at the end. A truly devastating film, perfectly accurate historically, sophisticated and well-wrought. There is no happy ending....more info
  • Most enjoyable....
    Enjoyed seeing this film for the third time since it was released.
    Nice film for your collection....more info
  • it left me rooting for stalin
    a tired bit of revisionist propaganda out of post-soviet russia which somehow won an oscar as best foreign film. its fascinating that something so heavy handed can pretend to be an answer to the vile excesses of the stalin era, but what can one expect? there is (at least one) great movie to be made about that era; dont look for it here.
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  • DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM IF>>>>
    You ever want to forget it. Its been 2 weeks and I can not stop thinking about it. If you have a young daughter DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE. Every time you play with your daughter you will think of this movie.
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  • Gorgeous but harrowing
    The scene starts on a gorgeous summer's day in Russia, not too far outside Moscow. Idyllic, but at what price comes Stalin's 'utopia'? This movie demonstrates a case of this seeming utopia crashing down for one family. Stalin's victims included everybody, the young, the old, those opposed to Stalin, and those who truly believed in the Soviet dream. The performances given by the actors in this movie are extraordinary, and the depth portrayed by their characters is amazing. The tragedy is one that was repeated over and over through Stalin's and Soviet rule, and this movie stands as a memorial for us to remember that....more info
  • 'Everyone was burnt by the sun of the Bolshevik Revolution'
    Clearly one of the most visually stunning, intelligent, sophisticated films about life in Russia during the Stalinist years, BURNT BY THE SUN is an experience all lovers of fine filmmaking should see. Directed and starring Nikita Mikhalkov who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rustam Ibragimbekov, this film allows us entry into the inside stories of Russia under Stalin. It is an emotionally devastating tale.

    On the grounds of his dacha in 1936 revolutionary hero Colonel Kotov (Nikita Mikhalkov) cavorts in his sauna with his young daughter Nadya (Nadezhda Mikhalkova) and his elegantly beautiful young wife Marusia (Ingeborga Dapkunaite). Outside on the lawn is the rest of Kotov's family in a peaceful, sun-drenched summer garden, drinking, singing, and blissfully enjoying life in the country. On the vast horizon is a group of men assembling a balloon to honor Stalin, and a group of army tanks treads onto the wheat fields threatening to destroy the crops. The townsfolk workers run for Kotov to rescue the situation, underlining the fact the Kotov is their hero from the revolution, much loved and respected. Abruptly onto the scene comes the handsome young cousin Dimitri/Mitya (Oleg Menshikov), an ex-lover of Kotov's wife. He ingratiates himself with Nadia and the rest of the family as a pianist and singer, but there is a note of evil lurking. Kotov understands the threat that Mitya's arrival indicates, that he has been betrayed and has become one of the many to be purged by Stalin. But the life in the dacha remains leisurely and elegant until the fateful end when Mitya's mission is fulfilled. The film ends with phrases telling us about the destinies of Kotov and his family up to the end of the purge after Stalin's death.

    The story is history: the telling is art. Blest with a cast of extraordinary luminosity, Nikita Mikhalkov directs this tale of repression with style and leisurely pacing, such as allowing for moments at table when one of the grandmothers sings an aria from Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly', an aria whose text foreshadows the future of the story. It is this contrast between the residual classy elegance of Russia before the revolution and the gritty reality of the cruelty of Stalinism that makes the film so resonant. The cinematography by Vilen Kalyuta and the musical score by Eduard Artemyev enhance the film immeasurably. In Russian and French with English subtitles. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 06

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  • Good, but lacking
    Without question this film features fine acting. But there is something lacking in the plot--it develops too slowly, is at times too confusing, and ends too suddenly. I enjoyed the film as far as the acting, but the plot left me dry, and frankly, after about an hour I stopped caring what happened in the end. Russia has produced better films....more info
  • beautiful and moving
    Wrenchingly emotional, this is one day in the life of a family that is on the surface idyllic...so full of life and love...and is actually a nightmare when the political reality of Stalin's rule intrudes into their world. The entire cast is brilliant with Nikita Mikhalkov ( who also wrote and directed ) as the war hero and patriarch, and Oleg Menshikov as the man who sells his soul for survival standouts. Like the fireballs that waft through rooms and over landscapes in this film, there is something magical about it that becomes more evident with each viewing. The winner of many awards, ( including an Oscar for Best Foreign Film ) it shouldn't be missed, you'll see they were well deserved....more info
  • a great movie
    saw this when it came out, got it as a present for my friend the playwright who also saw it but who was delighted to own it & be able to see it again.

    definitely worth it, touching, heartfelt....more info
  • mediocre
    The fild does not reflect history in all its dimensions. I would even say it distorts the truth by presenting a very single-sided point of view. It is definitly popular abroad, as people in the West tend not to know much about Russia and the former Soviet Union. In Russia, however, very few find the director historically honest. The West is also very often scared by the Russian mafia. Perhaps, it would be interesting for many to know that the film's director is one of the Oligarchs' men, a servant of robber barons, who pay him for service with money they steal from the people....more info
  • burnt by the fire of the USSR revolution
    An homage to those burnt by the Russian Socialist tyranny. All who were there were burnt: the victims, the perpetrators, the bystanders, former heroes included. Ideals were vanquished, dreams were dashed. A heart wrenching look at the devastating effects of political violence. ...more info
  • They'we chosen the worst movie to give it an Oscar
    Imagine yourself the following plot for the movie: to the house of a high-rank SS/Nazi officer comes a jew. Long time ago he was a first love of the Nazi's wife, and still loves her. And was somewhere abroad, running away in 1933. And meanwhile the Big Nazi was building a bright future for all German people, the jew became the agent of Gestapo, and a right hand of Himmler. And actually has come to arrest the true national-socialist. Does this sound to you believable, or is it totally disgusting?

    This is about how the story told in Michalkov's movie is related to the true history of Russia in 1930s. Not only the plot is highly unrealistic, the good and bad are really turned upside down. It's a pity, actually, since practically any other movie of Michalkov is quite good. This one is even directed poorly....more info

  • A feint then a right cross
    BURNT BY THE SUN is a deceptive film. It starts off and maintains the facade of being some light russian comedy that just happens to take place during the late thirties Communist mass murders and show trials when the Party decided to destroy the Red Army and thus leave Russia helpless before Hitler. One thinks that-oh no another film that portrays life in a Communist country as being just one great lark with the only dark spot being the odd communist with no sense of humor. That is not the case. Mikhalkov is showing the wonderful life and people of precommunist Russia-the eccentrics, the artists, the close family bonds, the common people-in short, the ones that Communism was supposed to "liberate". And after introducing the viewer to these people, letting us get to know them in wonderfully acted vignettes, the Communists come and we are forced to see it all destroyed. The shift is slowly built up to but is, none the less, intensley harrowing and ghastly when it finally comes. To the American viewer, it is analogus to suddenly seeing the Brady Bunch brutally murdered. Mikhalkov incisivley demonstrates, not only the physical savagery of Marxism which was considerable, but he also explores, it's intensivley antihuman methods that aimed not only to destroy the mind but the soul as well. The film is long. The film is subtle. The film can try the patience with its disorienting pace. It helps greatly to know some Russian history. The script could have explained more. But, ultimately, during the last half hour, the film is wrenching. How could anyone support an idealogy that would casually ruin and corrupt people such as these? Murder, torture, suicide; the Marxist utopia. Why is it necessary for the Russians themselves to make films exposing the Communist horror? Why cannot Hollywood? What is the flaw that allows American film to excuse genocide? Burnt By The Sun. Powerful. Disturbing. And depressing. It is an accusation. It should be seen. The viewer might also wish to try another harrowing film about Communist Russia called THE CHEKIST. If anything, it is even more powerful than BURNT and that is saying something....more info
  • Excellent - very faithful to the spirit of the Stalin era
    This is an excellent film, but to derive the maximum from it, a viewing should be preceded by a reading of background literature and histories. Particularly useful are anything by Robert Conquest ("The Great Terror"; "The Harvest of Sorrow"); Nadezhda Mandelstam's trilogy; Yevgenia Ginzburg's "Into the Whirlewind". Other excellent films which treat similar themes are "The Thief" by Pavel Chukrai, and "East-West" by Regis Wargnier. Both are extremely insightful into the nature of Stalinist society in 1930s/1940s USSR. By the way, does anybody know if the soundtrack of "Burnt by the Sun" is available? Or similar Russian popular music from the 1930's - 1950's? E-mail above....more info
  • Visually stunning . . .
    The endless summer day of love, lust, eating, fine friends, laughter and tears cannot last. Nikita Michalkov's brilliant film is moving . . . the hero revels in his last day of freedom. The acting is outstanding. The luscious tranquil scenery is the backdrop for this emotionally charged film. The hero faces fate with a laugh and a wink--he charges forward to certain death--he's ordered and has no choice. I couldn't turn away from this movie. It's images linger on in my brain. The undercurrent of the torment of the cruel state is symbolized by the balloon honoring Stalin. We remember all those brave souls who we're burnt by the sun. ...more info
  • Highest Quality
    This excellent movie is beautifully photographed, deeply affecting, intricate but clear, and it illustrates the monstrous abuse a totalitarian government perpetrates upon its citizens and their heroic battles against it. I highly recommend it....more info
  • WARNING....Do not watch this movie!!!...
    This movie is a disaster, the actors are shallow, the director is awfull and it doesn't deserve an academy award... Milcho Manchevski made a better movie than Nikita Mikhalkov,and he deserved the Oscar!...more info
  • Nikita Mikhalkov's best
    The movie portrays the dual life in Soviet Russia under Stalin in the mid 30s. The beginning is a story of what Soviet life should have been like; the end is a chilling revelation of the reality. Nikita Mikhalkov plays General Sergei Kotov, a hero of the revolution who is holidaying in his dacha with his family and whose na?ve love for the Soviet motherland is rewarded in the same fashion that Stalin rewarded most of the genuine revolutionary communists. But this is not the only story; there are many other little stories that portray the lives of people trapped between the past and the present, between lies and truths, between illusions and realities. Oleg Menshikov is extraordinary in this sense. He plays Mitya, a NVKD agent and an old friend of Kotov's wife, whose ruthlessness is the product of the Soviet spying apparatus, but who has also managed to preserve something noble in his personality from his tranquil past. The movie has a deeply sad finale - like the lives of everyone who lived under Stalin. ...more info
  • wow!
    this is a great movie for anyone with the patience to watch it develop. at the same time cheerful and ominous, it is deeply moving. the acting is superb - menshikov and the two mikhalkovs form a brilliant trio. though it moves slowly and it takes some time to figure out how all the characters are related, it is more than worth the wait. i don't speak russian, but i forgot i was reading subtitles by the first half hour. "burnt by the sun" is extremely accurate when it comes to the many arrests ordered by stalin. some background of the bolshevik revolution is needed, but even without it, the movie captures viewers. the emotions come through clearly, and the sets are beautiful. oleg menshikov isn't so bad looking either . ....more info
  • Confusion on the Political Issues
    I loved this movie, but I think there has been some confusion on its political contexts. It seems to me that the point of this film has not been to indict the communitarian practices of communism, nor does it seem to condemn the values of equality and proletariat populism promised by the Lenninist revolutionaries. Instead it riles against the Naziesque autocratic regime of Stalin.

    Only the least educated of people could think that this was a film that, in the spirit of Joseph McCarthy and many elected officials of the city of Miami, highlights the evils of communist ideology. Instead it is a film that warns against the damage that can be done by people who persue personal success and power above all else, even at the expense of those they love the best.

    We all know these kinds of people, that is what makes this film so great....more info

  • 3 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    Burnt by the Sun is overlong and slow at times, but well-made and worth watching for those interested in Russian history and/or cinema; it may not suck viewers in but it does tell an interesting and sad story that you'll remember....more info