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The Letter Never Sent (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on April 19, 2012

Not a whole lot to add to my first review.  Kalatozov’s film of epic struggle against the forces of fate and nature is of course most notable for its jaw-dropping cinematography by Sergei Urusevsky.  One incredible image after another, whether on location or clearly stagebound, the camera is constantly weaving its spell on you.  Such gorgeous deep black silhouettes, movement in and around the scenery, long and lingering close-ups of faces, both triumphant and beaten down.  It’s one of the best-looking films there is, with the photography playing a crucial role in the drama.

But the story isn’t some throwaway trifle, either.  The obstacles that the geologists face make for a compelling tale, as does the love triangle.  Tatyana Samojlova is not quite as impressive here as in The Cranes Are Flying, but she does have a warm, relatable, intelligent presence.  And say what you will about the Soviets, they seemed far ahead of us in terms of gender equality, especially in the workplace.  Tanya isn’t just taking dictation or cooking meals, she’s right in there with everyone else.  The other actors are quite good as well, although Urbansky and Smoktunovsky look so much alike it’s occasionally confusing.

Light on propagandistic messages, heavy on survival drama and group dynamics, it’s an exceptionally watchable film, due largely to its breathtaking visual flair.  Rating: Great


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