Letter Never Sent (Neotpravlennoye pismo) Reviews
I was fascinated to read that this particular film is major inspiration for Star Wars Episode 8. The film is visually out of the world with so much care & craft gone into every shot.
Also their personal story of loves within the group & out & their adamant mission to get the whereabouts of the Diamond Mine to Scientists. A stellar film that was truly something exceptional...an important Russian Film.
In the name of technical revolution, Kalatozov was always a name that resonated in the international celluloid cannon. The tracking shots and the powerful performances were perfect compliments for the visual style, and took the power of the social commentary or the dramatic stories to unimagined levels. Unfortunately, in the particular case of Neotpravlennoye pismo, his 1959 adventure, the story only functions as an excuse to expose technical marvel.
The film feels like "a Hollywood adventure shot by Mikhail Kalatozov", a thought that was formed in my mind halfway through. With the visual style as the only trademark to identify the movie, there is no metaphor, allegory, or any valid reason to actually care about the outcome of the four characters, or to even feel involved with the journey's original intention: to retrieve diamonds from Siberian landscapes. In this sense, characters have some kind of ambitions, but seem unclear to the viewer, leaving us with empty characters that, ironically, showcase an array of emotions through extraordinary performances. Moreover, unlike more meaningful deliveries like The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948), which worked perfectly as a metaphor on greed and the uselessness of trusting others especially when material means are involved, Letter Never Sent masquerades character development with technical qualities, which is a BIG red alert in my book. There is nothing relevant in the background that functions as a motor to propel believability.
Nevertheless, I cannot entirely complain against the film, given the breathtaking contributions it does from a technical point of view, all in the name of cinema development. The image juxtapositions are spectacular, performances are strong (as already mentioned), and the landscapes are beautiful enough to be devoured pressing the pause button and making black-and-white postcards. Less reflexive yet more powerful and influential than The Grey (2011), this is a standard adventure movie with lots of surprises to behold, including Mother Nature's stampede against four naive, little humans!
P.S. The Russians must have some fixation for unsent letters to loved ones.
In America, the above plot could well have been about greed. In the Soviet Union, all four characters are devoted to serving the State(The movie is dedicated to all such explorers.) which is noble, I guess, but personal safety should always be a consideration. And a bigger factor than nationality should be the earth and the care it requires. I say that knowing the environmental movement does not happen until at least ten years after this movie was made, but some thought should have been given to the natural beauty that could be ruined by any diamond mining.
(Originally reviewed in the blog section on January 28, 2008.)