Reading Book of Blockade -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

Venice International Film Festival
VENICE, Italy -- Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov has made brilliant experimental cinema, including the excitingly novel single-take "Russian Ark," but "Reading Book of Blockade" is not one among his greats.

In this quasi-documentary, amateur actors and others read out some of the chapters from "Book of Blockade" written by Daniil Granin and Ales Adamovich. The book narrates the 872-day siege of Leningrad by Hitler's armies that caused unimaginable famine and human suffering.

With the military blockade lasting through two full winters 1.5 million soldiers and civilians died of starvation and cold. The siege is listed as one of the deadliest in history with the casualties exceeding those of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The readers from several walks of life – teachers, soldiers, students and so on – try 1to inject into their readings the horror that included cannibalism by the tortured citizens. Some weep as they read. However readers remain readers. None lived through the blockade. So, their involvement in the film has, at times, an air of superficiality. The film really cannot hold attention for long, as the monotony of the reading is just a little too much.

Venue: Venice Film Festival -- Orizzonti
Production: TV Kupol
Cast: Maia Kilmenko, Ivan Krasko, Oleg Basilashvili, Boris Averin, Elena Shtopfen, Lev Neimishev, Marina Moshkova and Vladimir Kudrin
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Screenwriter: Nadejda Gusarova
Based on "Book of Blockade" by Daniil Granin and Ales Adamovich
Director of photography: Aleksandr Degtiarev
Production designer: Igor Mosin
Costumes: Julia Levkovich
Editor: Tatiana Orlova
No rating, 96 minutes