On the Edge of the World
A Fascinating and visually stunning looking drama with
a british DVD sleeve that's pure fantasy as this film
for certain is NO war movie and the depicted scenes are made up. In
this great film the main roles are
played by giant puffing (and huffing) steam trains making their way
through the Siberian taiga forest, and
they for sure are beautiful, these yummy old machines.
The Film takes place on the edge of the world, in a Krai/Kray, a remotely
placed russian (or Soviet) area
in the year 1945, just after the ending of WW2. Somewhere in Siberia
and the setting is haunting, the taiga
with it's desolate and a bit scary beauty.
In September 1945 the ex-engineer Ignat
(Vladimir Mashkov) arrives at a work-camp situated in a Krai,
at the end of the railway line. The people in the camp are not prisoners
as the many unlucky one's in Stalin's
concentration camps were, but russians that during WW2 Nazi-Germany's
attack on and occupation of big
parts of the Soviet Union became prisoners of the Nazi's. Now, these
russians can't be wholly trusted by the
paranoid dictator Stalin before being reformed in the communistic spirit
with a lot of hard work.
Ignat, he's an ex-engineer of steam trains and once he handled the most
prestigious of all Soviet trains, the
powerful Josef Stalin. But, as he's a bit wild he drove it too carelessly
and was blacklisted as a driver.
After battling at the front he's now supposed to repair the colony's
steam train, a tool for timber transport.
The Colony is lead by the one-armed, non-authoritative
and a bit ridiculed Kolyvanov (Alexey Gorbunov),
and he pretends to know nothing when the roughish Ignat takes over the
train driving business from the
younger engineer Stepan. He also takes over the guys girlfriend Sofia
(Yulia Peresild), a woman with a small
child as the result from her German captivity. The moonshiner Vovka
tell Ignat about an abandoned train on
an island close by, an island hard to reach as the railway bridge has
The Engine Gustav
Ignat locates the slightly battered and by vegetation
overgrown train hidden in the woods on the supposedly
empty island, but is attacked by a young and slightly feral turned woman
living on the train.
She's a German and her name is Elsa (Anjorka Strechel,
great) and she's fled to and lived on the island for
4 years and she's unknowing about the fact that there's been a war between
Germany and the Soviet Union.
She arrived to the Kray in 1940 with her father and her fiancé,
the engineer Gustav, when there still were
piece between the countries, to help out with the railway.
But, in the summer of 1941 the "friendship" was over after
Hitler started his operation Barbarossa and
after her father and boyfriend being shot she fled into the wilderness
of the taiga and took refuge on the
island where she lived with the train as her only companion.
Finally, after some ruckus and some misunderstandings,
he don't speak any german and she don't speak
any russian, Ignat and Elsa unite in getting The Gustav moving again
and in repairing the bridge. They have
to fix the bridge to get the train to the mainland and to Kray. Will
they succeed and how will a German
woman appearing out of nowhere be met by the Kray people?
Beautiful old trains, beautiful and slightly scary Siberian nature,
russian winter, great actors and then maybe
Anjorka Strechel as Elsa is the most impressive. Russian colorful and
with some bears wandering around
makes this a great viewing. I especially liked the scenes with Ignat
and Elsa on the island working with
the train, making it coming alive again as an ancient beast re-animated.
Omar Sharif staring from a window
I'm a Russophile, i love Russian culture with it's astounding
litterature, classical music, film and art, and i've
been dreaming about the vastness of Siberia, the snowy plains and the
taiga ever since i watched David Lean's
mighty film epic Dr. Zjivago as a child, based on the even more mighty
novel by Boris Pasternak.
Yes, yes, i know, the film wasn't even filmed in Russia (then Soviet
Union) but in Canada (i think) but still, it
made me dream about getting my own small datja/dacha somewhere in the
Russian East with a supply of food
and beer and a well functioning stove. When spring arrives you can watch,
just like Omar Sharif did, the early
flowers on a Siberian field and listen to the balalaikas playing Lara's
theme in the background.
Yes, this sounds corny i know, but this scene made such an impact on
me, and in real life i probably would be
killed and eaten by some zenophobic and hungry bears, with my luck ...
Sure, these my views may be un-opportunistic in todays hysterical Western
Europe, fuelled by Russophobia,
but i do hope that the relations between the West and Russia will be
normalized again. Then, i can get my little
datja, a shack will do i guess, somewhere in the Russian East, and hopefully
there will be a lot of Russian films
released with english subtitles to enjoy.
Maybe i will have to do with an expensive special tourist trip to Kamtjatka
The Film is very well produced and looks visually stunning, specially
then the huge old steam powered trains
thrusting their way through the Siberian taiga like huffing and puffing
Kray was Russia's entry to the Oscar's and surely the engine Gustav
should've won a prize for the Best non-
human actor. Yeees, i know, an Oscar entry will mean a mainstream film
and i guess this film is more main-
stream than Tarkovskij, so not everything is perfect as the ending felt
a bit too syrupy. Also, it's simply told
and not very philosophical in it's tone, but the story is told effectively
without any pretensions. Well done.
The DVD disc in anamorphic widescreen, russian 2.0 audio with english
subtitles, trailer as extra, and this
one would be great to see in a Bluray edition with subs (but i guess
this will never happen).
Vladimir Mashkov can also be seen in another film with Siberian woods,
in the very entertaining Trash action
Hunting Piranha from 2006 as special commando Colonel Kirill on the
hunt for terrorists in the woods