The New Observer Arts Reviews The Thief (Vor) [Film]

The Thief (Vor) [Film]

The Thief or Vor is a Russian film directed by Pavel Chukhrai. It was released in 1997.

The author of this review is not a film buff. Films, it seems, to this author, rarely reach the level of art. Art demands a certain perfection. In the course of 25 frames per second over 120 minutes (or thereabouts) with the camera swinging around taking n heaven knows what it is impossible to maintain that perfection. For this reason most films remain at the level of TV. Emotional slush.

This film is an exception. It is a song, a poem, an orchestral piece.

The setting is 1950s Soviet Union. A young widow takes up with a soldier. The soldier becomes as a father figure to the woman’s six year old son. The soldier turns out to be a thief albeit one with a certain glamour. He draws both the woman and the son into his thieving adventures. The woman hates him but loves him. The boy finds in him a father but is also disappointed and feels betrayed.

The settings are meticulously created. The opening scene on a train, some of the scenes in collective apartments, a stage show by the Black Sea, are all mesmerising. The acting is superb. A scene where the now adolescent son of the widow meets the soldier 10 years later is notable. The acting from Vladimir Mashkov who plays the somewhat sozzled former soldier now with just a reflection of his former glamour is superb.

It is a romance and a tragedy. The story is told in a sparse way, free of sentimentalising of any kind.

It may also be taken as a kind of reference to the collective values of the Soviet Union. Though what the director’s position is towards these times is not something which emerges. This is more a documentary of life than a personal emotional statement.

You can buy the Region 2 DVD from Amazon for about £20.00. It’s in Russian with English sub-titles.