Quiet Flows the Don (2006)

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Released 18-Nov-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Historical Epic None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 177:21
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sergey Bondarchuk
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Rupert Everett
Delphine Forest
F. Murray Abraham
Alyona Bondarchuk
Andrey Rudensky
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI ? Music Luis Bacalov


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† The epic novel Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail A Sholokov, the first parts of which were published in the 1920s, won the author a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1965 and is considered one of the greatest works of Soviet fiction. The novel has been filmed a couple of times before, including a silent version in 1930, but this version of Quiet Flows the Don was directed by famed Russian director Sergey Bondarchuk who had previously made the monumental War and Peace (1966) and the English language battle film Waterloo (1970). Clearly Bondarchuk was no stranger to epic themes and epic films when filming Quiet Flows the Don during 1992-1993. However a dispute with the Italian financiers of the project meant that the film had not been dubbed or edited when Bondarchuk died in 1994 and so Quiet Flows the Don lay unfinished until Bondarchukís son Fyodor Bondarchuk completed the editing and released the film as a seven part miniseries running just over six hours on Russian TV in 2006. The film was then reedited and released with a three hour running time which is the version on this DVD.

†††† It is 1912 and Grigory Melekhov (Rupert Everett) is the second son of a prominent Cossack family living in a village on the Don River. His father Pantaley (F. Murray Abraham) wants Grigory to marry and has chosen as his bride Natalya (Alyona Bondarchuk). Grigory is having an affair with Aksinia (Delphine Forest), the wife of a family friend but at his fatherís insistence Grigory marries Natalya, who loves him. However, he cannot forget his love for Aksinia, who is pregnant with his child, and they run away together and find work on the estate of General Listnitsky, whose son Yevgeni (Andrey Rudensky) takes an interest in Aksinia. Grigory is conscripted when WWI breaks out and fights with the Cossacks against the Germans. But when he returns on a leave he discovers that Yevgeni and Aksinia have become lovers. He abandons her and returns to his father and his wife, who later gives birth to twins.

†††† With the abdication of the Tsar, Russia withdraws from the war but the takeover of the Bolsheviks plunges Russia into civil war, Reds against Whites. The Don Cossacks rebel against the Bolsheviks and Grigory becomes a leader in their struggle. But when Aksinia returns to the village, their old passions reignite amid battles and burning villages, death and disaster as the world of the Don Cossacks changes forever.

†††† To condense a huge novel with its myriad of characters must have been difficult, but then to recut the film from six hours to three required even more compromises. The film that resulted from the reediting concentrates on the love triangle between Grigory, Aksinia and Natalia which means that a number of other characters do not have much of a story arc; we do not really get to know them and scenes that could be powerful seem haphazard. One such character is Grigoryís sister in law Daria (Natalia Andreycenko), who has some very interesting scenes seeming in isolation, although the characters of his older brother and his sister Dunya (Julia Zhevenova) also suffer, while the character arc of Mitka (Lorenzo Amato), the closest the story has to a protagonist for Grigory, is fragmentary at best.

†††† This would not be an issue if the central triangle was filled with strong performances. Instead Rupert Everett does not convince either as a Cossack or as a lover and he spends much of the running time looking glum, sullen or surly, and his scenes with Delphine Forest lack sparkle which means that their scenes end up feeling very melodramatic. Alyona Bondarchuk (the daughter of the director) as the stoic wife comes across better but the performance most worth watching is F. Murray Abraham, who at least adds some exuberance into his role. The chunky dialogue probably does not help anyone however. On the other hand, the beautiful vistas of the unfolding seasons along the Don look stunning and the sight of a squadron of mounted Cossacks charging guns across a snow clad landscape with flashing sabres and pounding hooves is always a thrill to watch.

†††† Quiet Flows the Don is a film that shows evidence of its post production woes. It looks great but the performances and what is left of the story are not really enough to maintain interest over the length of its three hour running time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Quiet Flows the Don is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which I expect is the original broadcast ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

†††† The film has natural deep and vibrant colours showing of the seasons along the Don River to great effect: the greens of spring, the yellows of the harvest and the grey and white of the winter snow, look beautiful. Some scenes are sharp with fine detail, but many scenes evince heavy grain, making them look very speckled and rendering the details less than crisp and shadow detail hazy; see 5:24 and 29:33 for only a couple of examples. Blacks are also affected by the grain. Skin tones are however natural, brightness and contrast consistent.

†††† There was also motion blur against mottled backgrounds such as tree leaves or buildings and the occasional tiny mark.

†††† There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Audio is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 192 Kbps; it is not surround encoded.

†††† Dialogue was generally easy to hear. The effects, such as charging horses, gunshots and cannon fire were OK but obviously not as deep and enveloping as a 5.1 audio. There was no surround or sub-woofer use.

†††† The original music by Luis Bacalov was suitably epic in scale and tone.

†††† With many different nationalities in the cast, mostly dubbed into English for this DVD, there were lip synchronisation issues, although it is generally not too bad.

†††† The audio was functional.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††† Nothing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The Region 2 UK release of Quiet Flows the Don is identical to our Region All release. There is no Region 1 US DVD listed. Buy local.

Summary

†††† This version of Quiet Flows the Don from Russian director Sergey Bondarchuk looks great but the performances and what is left of the story are not really enough to maintain interest over the length of its three hour running time. Sadly, Doctor Zhivago it is not.

†††† The video and audio are adequate. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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