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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Anna
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov
New Yorker 02/99 DVD/VHS Documentary
Not Rated

This remarkable documentary was secretly filmed by Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt by the Sun, Dark Eyes) over a 13-year period beginning in 1980. Despite Soviet restrictions against home movies, he went ahead with the idea of filming the responses of his daughter Anna to a series of questions: What do you want more than anything? What do you hate more than anything? What do you fear most? What do you look forward to?

The thoughtful six-year-old tells her father that she wants a pet crocodile and deeply dislikes borscht soup. As the years go by, the repressiveness and uneasiness of the Soviet Union colors her answers. The political shapes the person. With the emergence of glasnost and democracy, her spirit expands and she becomes freer again.

Mikhalkov uses an extraordinary mix of archival footage and newsreels to chart the uneasy course of events in his homeland under Brezhnev. Gorbachev, and other leaders. "The world was changing as fast as a landscape in an earthquake," he notes at one point. Anna is an incredibly thought-provoking documentary about the manifold ways in which politics and place can influence the soul.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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