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THE ITALIAN

Director: ANDREI KRAVCHUK

RUSSIA • 2005 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 97 MIN


A NEWSPAPER STORY ABOUT A BOY WHO ESCAPED A RUSSIAN ORPHANAGE IN SEARCH OF HIS ESTRANGED MOTHER INSPIRED THIS MOVING STORY OF DEFIANCE AGAINST THE ODDS, SHAPED AROUND ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE CHILD PERFORMANCES OF RECENT YEARS.
Little Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov, ten at the time of filming but playing four years younger) draws the envy of his pals at a crumbling Leningrad home when he’s picked out by an adoption broker for a wealthy Italian couple. While the paperwork goes through, the lad himself begins to have doubts, especially when the real mother of a previous foreign adoptee turns up to be told her son’s now long gone. If Vanya could just find out if his own mum was still alive, could he somehow find her? Not easy questions to answer when personal files are kept locked away, and Vanya can’t even read. With a respectful nod to Italian Neo-Realist classics like Bicycle Thieves, Russian director Andrei Kravchuk’s film is indisputably big-hearted, yet keenly aware of the failings and unrealised potential of his post-communist homeland. We see a state infrastructure existing at subsistence level, the gaps filled by dubious entrepreneurship at every level (even within the older lads’ gang controlling the orphanage), prompting a worrying moral relativism. Caught in the middle, Vanya stays true to himself with an unyielding sincerity placing him at all sorts of risk, and tension ratchets up to a nerve-shredding degree as he gets closer to his goal—since master Spiridonov just doesn’t seem to be acting, but existing in each fearful moment.—Trevor Johnston.

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