Barber Of Siberia

Barber Of Siberia


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Truth lies in the detail. Nikita Mikhalkov knows this. Anyone lucky enough to have seen Dark Eyes and Burnt By The Sun will expect a visual feast. Dr Zhivago was a love story, with an epic backdrop. So was Cyrano De Bergerac. Add to these The Barber Of Siberia, a tale of honour and passion.

Jane Callahan (Julia Ormond) travels to Moscow from Massachusetts in 1885, masquerading as the daughter of an eccentric inventor (Richard Harris), who need money to complete the field trials of his monstrous tree felling machine that will devastate forests and feed the pulp mills of an entire continent.

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Her art is seduction and her business to elicit financial support from rich aristocrats within Czar Alexander's court.

Jane's character is ill-defined. Her flirtatious charm is hard to resist and yet there is something superficial about her, something lightweight. On the train, she meets a high-spirited group of young army cadets and makes particular friends with one of them, Andrey Tolstoy (Oleg Menshikov), who, over a bottle of champagne, falls in love with her. Andrey has the courage of a clown. He is not afraid to follow his heart, even if it leads into an abyss. He acts on impulse and with fortitude, often ending in farce or trouble. Driven by an unconsumated passion for Jane, he allows jealousy to crucify him.

Visually the film is stunning, recapturing a sense of wonder, even madness, that incorporates the soul of Mother Russia. The story is told in flashback 20 years on. This North American section is less than successful, not that it detracts from the whole. The performances are worthy of Mikhalkov's grand vision. Moscow in winter at the end of the 19th century has a magic all its own. It is enough to be there and experience the unpredictability of a unique and thrilling talent.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2007
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Epic story about a woman trying to help an eccentric inventor raise cash in 19th century Russia, who falls for a young officer she meets on a train.
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Director: Nikita Mikhalkov

Writer: Rustam Ibragimbekov, Nikita Mikhalkov, Rospo Pallenberg, based on the story by Nikita Mikhalkov

Starring: Julia Ormond, Richard Harris, Oleg Menshikov, Aleksei Petrenko, Marina Neyolova, Vladimir Ilyin, Daniel Olbrychski, Anna Mikhalkova, Marat Basharov, Nikita Tatarenkov, Artyom Mikhalkov

Year: 1998

Runtime: 180 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Russia, France, Italy, Czech Republic


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If you like this, try:

Burnt By The Sun
Cyrano de Bergerac