December 3rd, 2006

paper i just wrote

Mike Cross
Russian 401
Review: Father of a Soldier

Sergo Zaqariadze was 55 years old when he played Giorgi Makharashvili, the Georgian wineyard peasant worker, strong as a giant ox, and proud of his tall, handsome son. In yet the third war film viewed, we finally see some middle ground between "Ballad of a Soldier" and it's strong pro-Russian army stance with courageous, selfless Alyosha, and the the doomed, patriotic Boris of "The Cranes are Flying". Alyosha showed us the joys of duty tainted with an immacuate grin of brainwashed propaganda, and Boris showed us the other side -- a nation of parents terrified , ordinary citizens watching their young sons march off to wage war with the evil Germany, lost forever to the ragged fronts. And so Giorgi shows us that he, the proud Georgian, too can join the ranks of younger soliders and in so tag along for a free ride to find his beloved son.

Giorgi begins the film atop a rusty old jalopy, stoic but with an acumulating heir of mental retardiation until he speaks. And quickly we learn he is off to find his wounded son, held in a far away hospital in a country whose writing he cannot read. As he befriends fellow peasants, all who feel the same gloom from the long war at that point, he makes his way to the hospital his son was brought to. Of course, his son has healed and is back on the front with his trusty tank, tearing across the German border. Giorgi, desperate and stubborn as a mule, waits three days in front of the army depot, until the commander allows him, a man twice his age, to fall in with the boys by comparison. Onwards Giorgi goes, stumbling towards his son. It's a father's love that keeps the old man energized, and it's depressing as hell to know how doomed either he or his son are meant to be.

Of course, at the end of the film the two are reunited. Painfully they are allowed to exchange, verbally but hidden, the morbid bread of a Nazi sandwich. The pastrami kills the rye. Giorgi's eyes become sad. Through this, though, we're not left with the same uslessness we felt with "The Cranes are Flying", but rather a sadness of duty, and one of inevitability. "Father of a Solder" hints that war really sucks, and leaves the sullen viewer to mutter the solemn utterence, "yeah dude, wicked bad."

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