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Larisa Shepitko is one of the greatest directors that many people have never heard of. In this episode, I seek to change that. I talk about two of her greatest films: “Wings” (1966) and “The Ascent” (1977). Shepitko died early in 1979 in a car accident at the age of 41. In her brief life, she created films that were concerned with the individual psychology of her characters and in raising moral and spiritual questions for her audience. She was married to fellow director, Elem Klimov, who made a short film about her after she died. It’s called “Larisa,” and I also talk about it. Warning: this episode contains spoilers.
“Wings” is about a Soviet woman who fought in the Second World War and who struggles to adjust to her more mundane life after the war. She is also haunted by the lover she lost in the war. The film explores themes of nostalgia, loss, and aching. “The Ascent” is about two partisans–Sotnikov and Rybak–who are captured by the Nazis in Belarus during the Second World War. Sotnikov refuses to collaborate with the Nazis, while Rybak does collaborate. The film examines the complex moral issues of the war and extends sympathy and respect to all the characters.
Full show notes:
- Tablet Magazine article about Shepitko
- Guardian article about Shepitko
- Senses of Cinema article about Shepitko
- Watch Elem Klimov’s 1980 film, “Larisa”
- Select quotes taken from Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II“
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