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|Index||26 reviews in total|
47 out of 53 people found the following review useful:
A truly beautiful film, 26 September 2006
A truly beautiful, heart wrenching film 'The Italian' moved me so very much. Surely a filmmaker sets out to touch his audience and make them feel the pain of his or her characters and certainly we are drawn straight into the little heart of the young, innocent and passionate Vanya. I can not imagine a soul in the audience that would not want to instantly wrap Vanya in their arms to protect him and then take him home with them! The Italian is shot against a harsh cold Russian landscape and yet there is a certain love between the orphans at the orphanage,who only have each other to love and protect them and keep them on the right track. Certainly Italy is seen as the land of warmth, love and opportunity in comparison. But the real warmth and love in this film resonates from this wonderful little actor behind Vanya. He could not be much older than the 6yr old he plays and yet he was able to convey more emotion, devastation and warmth than many of the adult actors i have watched of late. Highly recommended!!!
44 out of 53 people found the following review useful:
Contemporary time setting. Little boy's journey who lives in Russia, is supposed to be adopted by an Italian family., 26 January 2006
Author: ikmedia from United States
This film is an absolute treasure! It is not only well done, and I don't mean super effects or huge budget, but well done from a true Cinematic and directorial approach, it also has a very interesting script. Most importantly, this film has a soul; it adds humanity to our consciousness, which is rare in this "postmodern" age we live in. Acting is excellent especially if you take under consideration that most of the characters are children. Like any great film, it speaks of the personal story and goes beyond, dealing with bigger issues. Moreover, this film follows the great Russian film tradition, reminded me of Tarkovsky, even though the style is very different, and more recent film "The Return" which came out of Russia couple years ago and won international awards.
37 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
young orphan faces life's difficulties and challenges to find who he really is., 28 January 2007
Author: marcellny from Mexico
this was one of the best movies i have seen in a long time. not only was kolya spiridov magnificent, every actor young and old were intense. the lyricism of this movie is simply magnificent. i felt the cold, the dampness, the starkness and disagreeing completely with someone else's comment on this movie, i found the score perfect. economical, to the point, letting us feel the story without suggesting it for us as Hollywood tends to do. also... directed superbly where the main character doesn't get cheap emotions out of us by making us 'cry' by crying. we suffer his plight a great deal more as he goes through the film just as is. superb, intricate, inspired. this film deserves great recognition and all the accolades a great movie should ever get. i recommend it greatly.
29 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
A Film of Great Beauty, Sadness and Heart, 21 January 2007
Author: (firstname.lastname@example.org) from New York, NY
I saw "The Italian" with a friend I have known for 40 years. He has two sons, now grown up. I could only think about how lucky they are. We and the entire audience were deeply affected by this story of the effects of poverty, abandonment, the market for children, and the inexplicable drive of boys to return to their mothers, even when they have been sent away by them. The performance of the little boy who plays the central character is astonishing, absolutely remarkable. The director is a magician. The desolation of person and of place is captured in such a way that disbelief is almost total that such things can still be ongoing in this world of great wealth, albeit selectively concentrated . All of the actors, all little boys, two young girls and a few young boys in their teens--all are so engaging that we are stunned by the loss their characters and the real little boys whose story the writer and director tell suffer. This is 2007, the film was finished in 2005 and set only three years earlier. We wonder, How can this happen to little boys, and girls? And what effects follow? We see some of those effects in the older children. Then one recalls that this sort of thing is not limited to Russia but is common here in the States and all over the world a reality--the turning of an unwanted life into dross by neglect and abandonment. Every mother and father should see this film and then go to their son and tell him how much they love him, and think about little boys languishing in orphanages. One wants to do something after seeing this film, anything to relieve such boys of their horrific fate. Their tenderness for each other is stressed by the filmmakers. This is something that bears remembering. When kids aren't taken care of, they do find ways of caring for each other. They are resourceful in face of neglect, punishments, indifference, poverty. But many fall to pieces.... That now and again one little boy MAY NOT have been destroyed utterly in this way, as suggested in this film, is the source of the film's beauty. The face of the little boy here is unforgettable. The suggestion of a life having been wasted reflects and is reflected by the setting. One can only ope that the film will be widely seen.
10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
one boy's odyssey, 8 July 2007
Author: Roland E. Zwick (email@example.com) from United States
"The Italian" is a touching tale of a six-year-old Russian orphan who
goes in search of the mother who gave him to a foundling home when he
was just an infant.
Vanya has spent virtually his entire life growing up in a substandard orphanage run by an alcoholic director and a cold-hearted administrator. The children there live in virtual squalor with no effort on the part of the leaders to properly instruct or educate them. The future for most of these youngsters is a bleak one indeed, with a life of petty thievery and/or prostitution the most likely outcome for any of them not fortunate enough to catch the eye of some prospective, loving parent. Yet, as the movie begins, young Vanya's personal nightmare seems to be coming to an end as a kind Italian couple has come to Russia with the intention of adopting Vanya and taking him back to Italy with them. However, before the proper papers can be signed, the boy, sensing he must act quickly before it is too late, sets off on a long, arduous journey to see if he can find the mother who abandoned him as a baby.
"The Italian" is a compelling slice-of-life drama that has a great deal to say not only about the appalling conditions faced by orphans in Russia today, but about the determination of the human spirit and the need for love that exists at the center of every human heart. Director Andrei Kravchuk brings a near-documentary quality to the film, as he focuses his camera on the details of everyday life in the orphanage and the countryside through which Vanya travels. This air of naturalism extends to the actors as well, particularly young Kolya Spiridonov, who, as Vanya, gives a performance that can only be termed extraordinary and heartbreaking. After this film and the brilliant "The Return," I'm convinced that Russia has some of the finest child actors in the business. Indeed, there is nothing less than a superb performance in the entire film.
"The Italian" is a film tuned to the realities of life in a harsh environment, where cruel and violent deeds often share the stage with acts of random kindness. Vanya's epic adventure provides more than ample opportunity for him to experience both, but it is the magnanimity he encounters at the hands of strangers that lingers longest in memory.
11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Suspenseful neorealist-influenced story drawn from the plight of orphans in Russia, 13 February 2007
Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Italian/Italianetz is a good use of neorealistic effects almost
worthy of Zavattini and De Sica to tell the story of a Russian orphan
at the present time, a boy of six who's set up for adoption by an
Italian couple and then determines to sneak off and see if he can find
his own mother instead. Arranging adoptions on a freelance basis,
apparently, outside the chaotic social system of present-day Russia, is
a lady they call Madam (Mariya Koznetsova), plump, bossy, slick,
followed around by a glum factotum, Grisha (Nikolai Reutov), who's her
chauffeur, toady, and sometime lover. She makes a bundle out of each
successful adoption by foreigners and makes free with bribes and
threats to be sure her deals go through. A product of modern Russian
capitalism, the money-mad Madam is more villain than fairy godmother.
Using a photo followed up by an on-site interview at the detsky dom (children's home), Madam has arranged with an Italian couple, Roberto and Claudia, to adopt young Vanya Sonetsiv (Kolya Spridonov). But then when Vanya meets up with a remorseful drunken mom who apparently commits suicide after learning her child has been adopted and taken to Ialy, he gets the urge to investigate his own record. Everybody acts like he's such a lucky guy. But supposing he goes off with Roberto and Claudia? Mightn't he miss out on a chance to be reunited with his own mother, should she have a change of heart and want him back? Is there such a chance, though? And where is his mother? To find out, first Vanya has to learn to read a detail the orphanage has neglected and find a way to get a look at his file.
The detsky dom's administration is not exactly on the up-and-up. The wild looking director (Yuri Itskov) is drinking up all the funds, and to fill in the vacuum this leaves a small clique of older boys to pretty much run the place and its finances, like a rawly capitalistic petty mafia, sporting scars, tattoos and muscles and throwing around words like "cosa nostra." Led by a boy named Kolyan (Denis Moiseenko), they have their own little systems of businesses and payoffs. And this shadow regime, up to a point anyway, really seems to work. The kids' beds are clean, and the girls mend their clothes and read them fairy tales at bedtime. But it's clear there's no pathway to a better future in the life here. Vanya, whom everybody now calls "the Italian" because of the good fortune they feel he's destined for when the papers go through in a month or so, now wangles his way in with the older boys, and they help him out. Among these undergrown mafiosi is a girl named Irka (Olga Shuvalova) who they pimp out to truck drivers. It's she who teaches Vanya to read. The big boys help Vanya break into the room where the records are kept and he gets the address of the maternal home where he came from, and Irka takes Vanya to the railway station, having robbed the boys' current till and intending to run off with him. Madam immediately finds out that Vanya has disappeared and, standing to lose her payoff if she can't deliver him to the Italian couple, she sets off in hot pursuit with Grisha.
What follows is a wild chase in which Vanya shows what he's made of. Nothing, and that includes some pretty rough scrapes, can stop him from his relentless flight and quest.
The Italian never loses its authentic flavor either as it moves toward an emotionally satisfying if somewhat hasty finish Still, it's obviously in the first half of the film that we get our best look at this world and its people and the Russian orphan problem. It might even have been a better treatment of that issue if some of the earlier scenes had been allowed to play out a bit longer.
The San Francisco Chronicle's venerable Ruthe Stein called this the best "naturalistic performance by a Russian child actor since Kolya a decade ago." Spiridonov is very effective and appealing in his role, and perhaps The Italian has some links with that somewhat saccharine earlier film. But The Italian is more chastening than Kolya. A more appropriate recent comparison (and another great youth performance in Russian) is the picaresque, unpredictable Schizo (2004), directed by Guldchat Omarova with the 15-year-old Oldzhas Nusupbayev. The Italian isn't saccharine, but it's also not as grim a view of the plight of lost Russian children as Lukas Moodysson's deeply depressing 2002 film Lilja 4-Ever. See all four and decide for yourself which feels like the most convincing and cinematic story of Russian childhood. You'll have to consider whether Kravchuk undercuts or strengthens his material by turning it into a fairy tale.
It was the urge to depict a growing social problem and at the same time tell an engaging story that must have drown a documentarian like Kravchuk to this subject. He has worked well with his non-actors and his writer Andrei Romanov, and Aleksandr Burov has provided a misty, subtly colored cinematography.
8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Not Christmas, but another miracle, 10 December 2007
Author: lastliberal from United States
It is not likely that I will find Andrei Kravchuk's first film, A
Christmas Miracle< in my search for Christmas movies to get me in the
spirit; but, his second film, and Russia's entry into the Oscar race is
truly heartwarming and an outstanding sophomore venture for the new
Six-year-old Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov) is being adopted from a Russian orphanage by an Italian couple. While waiting, he comes across a mother looking for her son, who has long since been adopted. He decides to find his own mother and sets out to make this happen, even though he has already be "sold." Of course, the people who sold him are trying to find him as he journeys to find his mother. Six years old and off on a journey well beyond his years. Like so many children in the world he has to grow up too fast - most because of war or tragedy like Darfur.
You will be torn by what the children at the orphanage do to survive, and you will be heartened by the strangers who help him along the way. Most of all, you will find that there are some great movies out there that do not depend on CGI or excessive violence to entertain. This is certainly one of them.
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful film with excellent acting., 5 November 2009
Author: jdpenna from United States
Found this to be a film I would see over again. Only complaint was sub titles were incomplete so I had to guess about the dialog. The boy playing Vanya was so believable and everything he felt could be seen on his face. All of the actors were great. Would recommend this film highly. I found no political content. You would have to be looking for it to find anything like propaganda. Just a mesmerizing film. So sad were the scenes in the orphanage, although the affection between the children was so sweet. I thought Vanya's journey to find his mother was so fraught with peril it kept me worried about him. Made me wish I could understand Russian. The older children made it seem they did what they had to for survival. I liked how they helped Vanya as well as the people who helped him on his journey.
9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
An heroic, almost mythic tale of the ordeals of a young boy to reunite with his mother, 5 February 2007
Author: (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Portland, Oregon, United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is a sublime chronicle of the adventures of an orphan in
search of his mother. Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov), supposedly is 6 years
old, though Kolya is more likely 9 or 10. Nor would a 6 year old be
capable of displaying the intrepid resourcefulness that Vanya
demonstrates over and over again in his struggle for survival on his
Vanya is stuck in a seamy orphanage in a small Russian village; the year is 2002. Foreigners pay big money to adopt these children, and the film opens as an Italian couple arrive at the place, where they agree to adopt Vanya. Two months must pass to clear the adoption, and in this time Vanya, now nicknamed "Italienetz" - "the Italian" - by the other charges, comes to a realization that he does not wish to go to Italy with this couple, but, rather, wants to find his own mother. He has no sense that, apart from the difficulty he may encounter locating her, very likely in another city, most women who give up children to such places have no interest in ever seeing their progeny again, and many are unfit for parenting.
But Vanya is moved toward a more optimistic vision as he witnesses the recurring visits of a woman - an alcoholic prostitute - who pleads in vain for the return of her son, who is a chum of Vanya's. She is turned away because to lose the boy means a great financial sacrifice for the people running the orphanage and adoption business. (A friend of mine tells the story of her son and his wife adopting 3 Russian boys at $10,000 per child, required to be delivered in crisp new US$100 bills, and that was a decade ago.) The indomitable Vanya stubbornly holds onto his vision even after a beating by an older boy for jeopardizing the prospects of the other boys to find good homes. He learns to read, finds his file in the Headmaster's office, gleans from it the address where he lived before coming to the institution, and elopes to find his mother. With the adoption arrangers in hot pursuit, and trouble makers along the way that try to thwart him, Vanya nevertheless is in the end reunited with his mother, a connection as fulfilling as it is unlikely in such circumstances.
This happy ending seems entirely justified because it is not the arbitrary, sentimentalized product of some ham-handed screenwriter. The ingredients of Vanya's successful quest are his own grit and wiles, and the unexpected acts of kindness by others to aid him: the prostitute who teaches him to read; the older bully who comes to respect Vanya enough to help him locate his file; the old man at the way station for orphans in the city who risks his position to send Vanya on his way toward his mother's apartment; the adoption arranger who captures him but then lets him go. One might even venture to say that it is the sanctity and determination of Vanya's quest, his own state of grace, if you will, that moves others to open their hearts to him.
Kolya Spiridonov is vastly charming in the best sense. He's not cute or sweet. If anything, he's got an edge, spunk, a bit of attitude (who wouldn't, living as he has). But more than that, he's whip smart and he exudes a natural sense of confidence and self assertion in a panoply of simple, swiftly passing, apparently spontaneous gestures. His barely wrinkled nose and slight turn of the head when an old man's cigarette smoke gets too dense. His brief pickup of a phone receiver out of curiosity. His audacious pilfering of his file and equally bold move of throwing sand in the faces of older kids who want to subdue him. His quick-witted lie that a drunken man next to him on the train is his father. There is something decidedly heroic about Vanya, a willingness even to sacrifice himself in the service of pursuing his dream, as he faces each test thrown up to block his progress. It is an astonishing performance.
Virtually all the key supporting players are also first rate. For several it is their first credited screen role, but they're each one very good, a tribute to both the director and casting agent. The photography is enchanting: faint winter light and an almost milky, filmy look to everything in the exterior scenes. Intriguing views on a long train ride: farms, towns, workers, fellow travelers all common people. Wonderful close-ups: we feel as if we have come to know several of these people young, old and in between - at close range. This film is virtually flawless, an absolutely splendid, almost mythic tale. (In Russian) My grades: 10/10 (A+) (Seen on 02/02/07)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Dickensian in the best sense of the word, 18 June 2008
Author: TrevorAclea from London, England
Despite a title that hints at a modern-day stab at Italian neo-realism
in the vein of The Bicycle Thieves, as others have noted, Andrei
Kravchuk's The Italian plays very much like a Charles Dickens story -
had Dickens been Russian and alive in the 21st century. Vanya Soltnsev
(Kolya Spiridonov) is the modern-day Oliver Twist in a particularly
bleak Russian orphanage run by the corrupt Madam and a weak-willed
headmaster, both turning a profit on arranging adoptions for foreign
couples. But when a mother who abandoned her child appears at the
orphanage in a vain attempt to be reunited, he becomes obsessed with
the possibility that his own mother might still want him and determines
to find her in the big city - but Madam has already sold him to an
Italian couple and sets off in hot pursuit...
It's a sincere film, but it doesn't quite hit home as hard as it wants to. The first half of the film paints in the details of the everyday corruption in the orphanage, where the corrupt adult administration is mirrored by an equally corrupt gang of children, but despite the grey, colourless stones it doesn't anger or outrage as much as it could. Possibly modern audiences have become slightly desensitised to this kind of material from decades of news exposes, but the first half of the film does tend to drag a little before Vanya makes his escape. It's in this section that the film really comes to life, gradually accumulating color and vitality denied the early scenes as Vanya is both helped and hindered by those he meets on his way to the big city, and it's here that the film finally starts to engage the emotions and gets you rooting for him. The ending might be a little unlikely, but Dickens certainly would have approved
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