Wings (1966)

18 08 2008

A wonderful, albeit no thrills, debut from Larisa Shepitko. Unlike her fellow countrymen, she lacks a very defiant visual style. While it isn’t all that much of a problem in this case, it does make the film feel a lot less personal and unique than it is suppose to be. On the other hand, Shepitko does have a knack for capturing very spontaneous moments, which go well with the frequent narrative ellipses and flashbacks. It is a very subtle and deliberate character study that slowly reveals its true intentions, but once it does, it is quite impressive.

Nadezhda Petrukhina was once a great fighter pilot, but now she is a schoolmistress. Despite the accolades she receives from others, she is still living in the past, constantly rethinking her “glory days” during the war. Ironically enough, she cannot adapt to life without war. Her current lifestyle, while it does have the occasional dramatic incident, does not excite her in the least. She is pegged down by the mundane and repetitious nature of school life, but it is there that her memories of the past begin to blossom.

While I still stand by the initial assessment of the visual style (i.e not that fantastic) there are some nice visual flourishes present throughout. Shepitko, unfortunately though, never does anything particularly interesting with the camera. Everything is rather straightforward with a “put the camera on the person talking” shooting style. Perhaps I’ve been watching one too many visually rich films lately, but Shepitko’s style definitely seems to come dangerously close to being flat-out boring. Especially when one takes into account the visual resourcefulness of someone like say, Tarkovsky, but unfortunately, she does also have the rather ponderous floating camerawork.

In Shepitko’s defense, her strengths don’t seem to lie in her aesthetics, but rather the fragmented way in which she presents the events of the film. Her protagonist isn’t the most captivating of figures at first, seeing as all the audience is originally given is the information that she is a schoolmistress. But this is what makes her storytelling capabilities so fascinating and what ultimately makes this film successful. Slowly, Nadezhda’s past is revealed to us and we begin to create a more vivid mental picture of the character herself. It’s a bit like a suspenseful take on character development as it is only when the film is over that its intentions become clear.

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4 01 2011
A Journey Through The Eclipse Series: Lariso Shepitko’s Wings « The Criterion Cast

[…] Wings concludes on a wondrous but tantalizingly ambiguous note, as Nadya’s journey reaches its culmination in a way that exhilarates those viewers who’ve successfully climbed on board, but leaves up to us the ultimate interpretation of where she winds up going after “The End” flashes across the screen. […]

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