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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Blockade' Movie Wins Plaudits, Few Showings

Reading Book of BlockadeSokurov is known for avant-garde films, four of which debuted at Cannes.

Alexander Sokurov’s latest film has people reading from a book, one after another for the whole 96 minutes.

“Reading Book of Blockade” has children, soldiers, artists and actors reading true stories about the horrors of the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during World War II.

The film uses stories from “Book of Blockade,” written in the 1960s by Daniil Granin and Ales Adamovich, where they wrote down the stories of the people who survived the siege.

“It was a life-long decision … to make this film. Every citizen of St. Petersburg has at least once read the book,” Sokurov said in a written statement. “I wanted to catch the momentary impression that these real stories of enormous sufferings, cold, famine and deaths produce on our contemporaries, those who live in a safe and comfortable world and, perhaps, have never read this book and do not have the slightest idea how cruel the world could be.”

When reading, each and every person must ask him or herself how to be strong to survive and not lose honor, Sokurov said.

“While filming the reading of the book, Sokurov asked us not to act but just read the text. The book itself is incredibly strong and touching, and reading it sends you through all the unique feelings that Leningrad residents felt,” said Sergei Barkovsky, one of the actors in the film. “The movie sounds like a perfectly directed orchestra with its distinctive tone. You can’t peel yourself away from this music.”

The film has been well received by critics.

“‘Reading Book of Blockade’ is, first of all, a movie about limits and ways to overcome them,” said Konstantin Shavlovsky, deputy editor of Seance magazine. “People reading the book are barred from viewers by a glass wall with water flowing down over it. The ‘crying’ glass is not only an image of a great tragedy, but also a means of dissolving borders, between the living and the dead, between cinema and literature, between the past and the present.”

Shavlovsky even saw a modern message in the film. “Reading Book of Blockade” is the most important movie about civil society in Russia,” he said, “about the fact, that you can try however hard to limit civil society, but it’s ineradicable, and eventually it will break through any blockade.”

It is currently being shown on the international film festival circuit. Foreign audiences were shocked, the director said in media interviews last year.

“Even though the book has been translated into many languages, the West still knows very little about the Siege of Leningrad. Western people don’t understand how it is possible to eat shoes, earth and each other to survive,” he said.

Reaction at home has been positive among critics, but the film has hardly been shown anywhere. When shown, it has provoked a strong reaction.

“After the end of the movie, people began to applaud and stopped all of a sudden,” recalled LiveJournal user nam3el. “There was the feeling that people got confused and realized their applause was inappropriate because the subject was too serious.”

The only Russian television channel that has shown interest in the film so far is St. Petersburg channel TV100, which has posted the film in two parts on its web site.

The movie can be watched at www.tv100.ru/video/view/5049.