Save And Protect

Save And Protect


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Watching a Alexander Sokurov film can be a frustrating experience. Often he happens upon a moment of emotional truth that is vivid and unexpected, yet there is also an undeniable turgidness to some of his films, and the longeurs are noticeable even in this trimmed down two-hour version of what was originally a 167-minute version of Save And Protect. It is a loose adaptation of Madame Bovary and like many of Sokurov's films - including Taurus, Alexandra and The Second Circle - the focus is on a singular protagonist as the world comes and goes around them. Also in common with his other work, the plot is spartan.

Here the Emma of Gustav Flaubert's novel is played by C├ęcile Zervudacki and transported to rural Russia, where her prediliction for high fashion has put her in hock to flamboyant salesman (Viktor Palech). She is bored and harbours aspirations of elegance - evidenced by a tendency to flit between Russian and French when she speaks - that far exceed her husband (Alexander Abdulov). He, in turn, is portrayed as a dull buffoon, with his animalistic tendencies illustrated both by the way he is frequently seen eating voraciously and by his blood-letting 'doctor' pretensions.

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Emma here is no ingenue, but rather an older woman who has grown tired of the world around her. Although not classically good looking, Zervudacki has a magnetism in the central role that suits the part and, in many ways emphasises her folly. Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of Sokurov's film, however, is the sound design, with far off train whistles suggesting Emma's removal from 'civilisation' and the constant buzzing of flies as she goes about her many trysts, hinting at a decay and debauchery a long way from her ideas of grandeur. He also makes good use of colour, to suggest his heroine's descent into a hell of her own making.

Still, for all its heightened emotion, Sokurov's film also feels unecessarily self-indulgent, with several scenes involving 'bit players' - particularly an ill-advised cat fight - coming across more like bad performance art than an exploration of cinematic truths. Unfortunately the director, like his protagonist, is too pretentious for his own good.

Reviewed on: 05 Nov 2012
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Russian retelling of Madame Bovary.
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Director: Aleksandr Sokurov

Writer: Yuri Arabov, based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert

Starring: Cécile Zervudacki, Aleksandr Abdulov, Aleksandr Cherednik, Viktor Palech, Vyacheslav Rogovoy, Yuri Sternin, Robert Vaap

Year: 1990

Runtime: 167 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Soviet Union, West Germany


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