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Kino on Video presents
Harvest Time (Vremya zhatvy) (2004)

"Is there any shelter from mice in a country house?"
- Kolya (Sergei Starostin)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: February 05, 2007

Stars: Lyudmila Motornaya, Vyacheslav Batrakov, Dmitri Yakovlev, Dmitri Yermakov, Sergei Starostin, Svetlana Yefremova
Director: Marina Razbezhkina

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01h:07m:23s
Release Date: February 06, 2007
UPC: 738329051228
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Harvest Time (Vremya zhatvy), written and directed by Marina Razbezhkina, tells a dark, introspective tale of life on a Soviet farm collective. Razbezhkina, as I understand it, is primarily a documentarian, but this film indicates a sensitive artistic side, blending magical realism with an intense family drama to make a absorbing if grim film.

In 1950, Antonina (Lyudmila Motornaya) is a combine driver supporting her husband (Vyacheslav Batrakov), a legless war veteran, and her two young children, one of whom narrates the story as an adult. Antonina is so good at her job that the local Communist leaders award her the Red Banner, a blood-red velvet flag with the embroidered images of Communism's greatest heroes in one corner. A great honor, but Antonina yearns instead for some calico to make a dress. Now, however, she becomes possessed by the struggle to keep the flag safe from the mice who constantly try to snack upon it. Her obsession with the flag comes at a cost to her family, as their formerly pleasant life changes.

Reading that description might lead one to assume this was a satirical portrait of rural life under the yoke of Stalin's iron fist, but it is instead a very quiet film, more concerned with inner emotions than political arguments. There are no extended conversations between any of the characters, and most of the speaking is done by the narrator. That leaves a certain ambiguity to our understanding of events, an ambiguity underlined by the final scene, which takes place in modern Russia and gives a strong sense of nostalgia for the largely unpleasant way of life we've just borne witness to for the previous hour.

The actors are uniformly fine, with Motornaya given the lion's share of work to do as the dutiful Antonina. The real star is the cinematography of Irina Uralskaya, which gives the proceedings an immensely poetic beauty. Finally, the sound design, though it comes across here as rather crude, has some powerful moments, including an amazing scene late in the film involving a pagan ritual. This is not what I'd call an easy film to watch, nor one you might want to return to repeatedly, but missing it would be a mistake.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I am presuming that this is a PAL conversion job, but it looks decent overall. There is a general softness at times that more often than not suits the material.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Russianno

Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is curious; much or all of it appears to have been done after the filming, but the sound quality is often dicey, with some segments pretty terrible. There appears to be an intended disconnect between sound and image at times, but it's unclear how much of this was intended and how much is simply bad sound work on someone's part.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: unknown keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. photo gallery
Extras Review: A brief photo gallery includes shots of the characters and the making of the film.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Harvest Time looks at a family falling apart in the wake of an apparent triumph. Marina Razbezhkina has crafted a moving film that turns expectation on its head. Kino's DVD isn't stellar, but it provides a solid enough viewing experience.


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