Destiny of a Man
(PG) 103min (Nouveaux Pictures DVD Retail)
Probably best known for his six hour adaptation of War and Peace (also recently released on DVD), Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1959 debut feature is no meagre effort. As he tells the story of a Soviet citizen, Andrei Sokolov (played by the director himself) caught up in the horrors of WWII, Bandarchuk pulls out all the stops. From the sweeping, opening pan across the undulating Russian hills, to a later scene where Andrei hurtles along in a truck escaping the German bombing onslaught, Bondarchuk vividly realises the events cinematically.
That opening isn’t just a standard establishing shot - it really captures the motherland the soldiers are defending, while as Andrei tries to avoid the bombs you feel every bump in the road as he drives at high speed. Sometimes the film gets bogged down in patriotic sentimentality, but this is vastly superior to the better known and recently released Russian ‘classic’ The Ballad of a Soldier. Extras here include fascinating documentary footage of prisoner of war camps and a Bondarchuk featurette. (Tony McKibbin)