Told without voiceover, explanatory subtitles or any other contextualizing material, Russian docu "Blockade" looks unlikely to show up on the History Channel as it stands now. Nevertheless, this absorbing account of the 900-day siege of Leningrad during WWII, reps poignant viewing as it focuses on the daily lives of the city's inhabitants.

Told without voiceover, explanatory subtitles or any other contextualizing material, Russian docu “Blockade” looks unlikely to show up on the History Channel as it stands now. Nevertheless, this absorbing account of the 900-day siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during WWII, told entirely through re-edited archive footage with freshly made sound, reps poignant viewing as it focuses on the daily lives of the city’s inhabitants. Pic by experienced helmer Sergei Loznitsa (“Landscape”) should soon besiege fests and upmarket cablers.

Culled from newsreel material, pic’s visuals are grouped thematically to show different aspects of the Leningrad Blockade. Shots of burning and later devastated buildings are backed by a soundtrack of sirens and raging flames. Sounds of soft weeping are matched to imagery of mass graves, which still have power to shock. Later on, dead, shrouded bodies are seen littering the streets, but most of the pedestrians, by this point so inured to the sight, simply walk past. Match between sound and image is concise but not too literal, and editing builds the pace well toward its climax, when the city is finally liberated and the war ends.

Blockade

Russia

Production

A Group TPO St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Studio of Documentary Film production, with the support of the Russian Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography. (International sales: Deckert Distribution, Leipzig, Germany.) Produced by Vyacheslav Telnov. Directed, written, edited by Sergei Loznitsa.

Crew

(B&W, 16-to-35mm); sound director, Vladimir Golovnitski. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 7, 2006. Running time: 52 MIN.
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