USSR, Mosfilm, 1960, 105 minutes
Scriptwriter: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Director: Yuliya Solntseva
Cast: Boris Andreev, Sergey Lukyanov, Vasily Merkuryev, Nikolay Vingranovsky, Svetlana Zhgun, Mikhail Mayorov, Zinaida Kirienko, Boris Bibikov, Voldemar Akuraters, Vladimir Zeldin, Boris Novikov, Evgeny Bondarenko, Aleksandr Romanenko
“The cinema of almost all filmmakers is narrow and one-eyed. Dovzhenko used to want to create a theater with a round stage or a round screen. Eisenstein <…> deepened the screen indefinitely. Dovzhenko widened it,"- film critic Viktor Shklovsky, a longtime interlocutor of the master, wrote this back in 1938 and he knew what he was talking about (Shklovsky V. “Shchors” A. Dovzhenko ["Shchors" by A. Dovzhenko] // Kino. 1938. May 5.).Dovzhenko, the author of "Earth" (1930), was obsessed with the idea to fit the entire planet within the frame. Literally. “The globe revolved in international space. The planet emitted smoke from the North Cape to the Black Sea, and planes scurried over its ideal sphere, spewing out thousands of bombs from their bowels," - this is how he saw one of the first shots of the future film in the script for "The Flaming Years". (Dovzhenko A. Povest' ognennykh let. Stsenarii [The Flaming Years. А Script] / Dovzhenko A. Sobranie sochinenii v 4-kh tt. M.: Iskusstvo, 1967. Vol. 2. S. 260.) Therefore, it is quite natural that, having completed the work on the film “Poem of the Sea”, which had been interrupted by Dovzhenko’s death, Yuliya Solntseva, faithful to the memory of her husband, took this 1945 script as the basis for the first Soviet wide-format film.
In 1960, “The Flaming Years” is seen as archaic and innovative at the same time. The monumental style, typical of Soviet cinema of the war years, is obvious. All the more so since Solntseva is trying to keep Dovzhenko’s cinema within the framework of socialist realism. Meanwhile, the format and stereo sound convey the scale of the historical cataclysm with a clarity that the cinema about World War II had not known before. Western battlepiece super epics with thousands of extras would appear later.
At home, the film received mostly official approval, giving the admiring reviews, which belonged mainly to Dovzhenko's contemporaries, a somewhat perfunctory tone: it comes as no surprise that Shklovsky did not include his enthusiastic review in his final collection “In 60 Years”. And the “The Flaming Years” did not become a true cultural event against the background of "The Cranes Are Flying", "The Ballad of a Soldier", and "The Fate of a Man" neither for filmmakers, nor even more so for the mass audience. Its abstraction from the realities of war in the name of an ideal – constructed for centuries to come - version is too reminiscent of "The Fall of Berlin".
But it is precisely this convention as something almost exotic that turns out to be attractive from the point of view of the Western film community. The review of the critic of “Les Cahiers du cinéma” Jean Douchet, written on the basis of fresh impressions from the Cannes Film Festival, is extremely indicative: ““The Flaming Years" takes us back ten years ago. It seems that we have returned to the wonderful Stalinist era, to its monolithic heroes <...>. Yuliya Solntseva's acute sensitivity manages to make the picture beautiful, as if made in the genre of oleography. Even bad taste is charged with emotional power, which owes everything to aesthetics <...>. The real is not needed. On the contrary, everything is aimed at its transformation. What is, turns into something else, into a continuous metamorphosis. The movements of the camera, the composition of the shot, the direction of the acting is ultimately less keen to penetrate life than to exalt it in its pure form.
Chronicle of the Great Patriotic War, turned into a poetic epic.
A collective farmer from the Dnieper region Ivan Orlyuk goes to war as a soldier, reaches Berlin and, returning to his home, does the first planting on his native Ukrainian land liberated by him.