Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Movie Review: "Burnt by the Sun"

Tonight my sons and I went to see the 1994 Russian movie "Burnt by the Sun" on campus.  Like a Greek Tragedy all the action happens during one fateful day.  The movie is based on the real lives of a hero of the Russian Revolution, a colonel, who was betrayed and murdered.  The movie is set in the Colonel Kotov's country house (Dacha in Russian).  

From beginning to its very sad end, the movie simmers with menace, but most of the time is a story of a happy family at their summer home.  

At the beginning, tanks on maneuvers line up for an assault along the tree line next to a wheat field just abut ready to harvest.  I knew this scene from the time I spent in Germany moving tanks across fields and farms.  Sometimes, the tactics we were ordered to use required us to tear up a farm field.  We had a German-American team following us who paid farmers for the damage, but the farmers were still upset when we tore up their land.

At the opening the movie, ten tanks line up side-by-side to attack a hill through a wheat field.  The farmers yell and bang on the tanks with pitchforks.  Colonel Kotov convinces the tank unit to move around the field.  

Kotov is a hero.  As the day progresses, Kotov becomes more and more vulnerable until a black car takes him away to his death.  

As Nigel and I walked home from the movie I asked why he liked it.  First we talked about the tanks.  They were actually BMP Armored Personnel Carriers with turrets stuck on them.  

But then he said he liked the family doing things together.  We adopted Nigel several weeks after he was born.  From the first day in our home, he had three doting sisters who were 9 to 11 years older.   Until Nigel was seven he was surrounded by a big family a dog named Lucky and two cats:  Athos and Porthos.  

Then when he was almost eight, his two older sisters went off to college.  A few months after his ninth birthday, I went to Iraq for a year.  Then that fall, his third sister went to college.  During the year I was in Iraq, it was just Nigel, his Mom and Porthos--by this time Athos and Lucky had died.

Nigel clearly misses the big family that he spent his first seven years in.  Since then we adopted another son about Nigel's age, had another woman move in for a few year's who was about the age of Nigel's sisters, and we have another big dog.  

It was clear when I got back that Nigel was very proud of me for going to Iraq, but not very happy that I left.  This movie which I saw as wrenching tragedy he saw as a really nice family.  

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