Letter Never Sent (Neotpravlennoye pismo) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Letter Never Sent (Neotpravlennoye pismo) Reviews

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March 31, 2016
A mesmerizing visual Tour De Force about four geologists who are in search of a diamond mine in Siberia, they are fortunate enough to find the location but land themselves in a fierce forest fire.

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.
ElCochran90
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2014
As expected from a Kalatozov epic, the cinematography makes your jaw drop until it hits the floor and the camera becomes the omniscient master of the characters' fte. The wide ˝lens, sometimes wide in scope, sometimes introspective and minimalist, captures the viewer into a truly convincing pioneer adventure that slowly escalates tension and becomes a tale of survival.

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!

86/100

P.S. The Russians must have some fixation for unsent letters to loved ones.
Super Reviewer
½ November 22, 2013
While a very sobbering film and one that really packs quite a lot of melodrama into it's short running time, Letter Never Sent is a very artistic work with a few things going for it. The cinematography is amazing and really captures nature in both a very serene and dangerous way through long shots and tracking shots of the vast landscape the explorers are within. The POV changes constantly in the film altering between scenic long shots to the varying characters point of views both in their normal interactions as well as being carried or finally succumbing to exhaustion. It really does add a very unique and personal perspective to the filming and the viewpoint of the person watching. It is tributed to explorers everywhere and the Soviet Union in which the characters say numerous times that they are conducting the geological search for the betterment of the movement. Taken as a tale of survival though, which it ends up truly being, the film is wonderfully done and very artistically captured.
May 26, 2013
A group of four geologists sets out to the Siberian forests looking in a desperate search for diamonds. Having found them and drawn up a map, the four have to fight forest fires and terrible natural conditions for return home safe and sound. There are dramatic elements that keep this story interesting on a narrative scale. But what is truly remarkable is the constantly moving wonderful cinematography that adds intensity and rhythm to the story which, as it progresses, changes from realist to impressionistic.
March 15, 2013
Jesus, that was a bleak film.
January 6, 2013
The gliding tracking shots and the extremely intimate close ups amongst the Siberian wilderness make this film one of the most exquisitely shot films in the history of cinema. Nevertheless, I found it a chore to watch as there was a bit of redundancy among certain shots and the overall story.
½ December 7, 2012
Surely (at least--and very easily--one of) the greatest film(s) with the theme "man (and woman!) vs. nature" (and in more ways than one). And with no profit motive! Compare with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and There Will Be Blood.
November 30, 2012
The acting is overblown, but with occasional flashes of brilliance. The plot for the first 2/3 is week and disconnected, but becomes tragically deep and moving. This was without a doubt a tough film to make, and the film construction is stunning. Not a great movie, but one well worth seeing.
November 25, 2012
Technically impressive downer of a film.
November 16, 2012
The plot seems like a vehicle for the beautiful cinematography. Not to say the story isn't interesting or well done. It is, though a bit simple and predicatable. The acting is good, but everything takes a back seat to the amazing visuals. Beautiful mountains, an epic forest fire, the destroyed landscape, and Siberian winter.
flixsterman
Super Reviewer
½ September 30, 2012
Stark, raw and a little artsy. Fantastic performances all-around.
August 13, 2012
Giving it bonus points for being ahead of its time, à la Casablanca or the African Queen, but in terms of visual impact, this would be a classic in any day. And who can resist the heroic story of a tough but wise proletarian and a bookish but confident geologist buckling down together, overcoming their personal conflicts and sacrificing all for the greater good of the Rodina? Sort of the Soviet equivalent of those stupid American cop-duo movies, except 15-25 years earlier and with actual production values.
½ July 29, 2012
It champions the socialist rhetoric of the Soviet Union but the film is Russian & was made at the height of the Cold War so in my opinion that's only fitting. Those elements are there but I feel that Mikhail Kalatozov makes it his purpose, ultimately a covert effort, to transcend any agenda & the results are a beautifully filmed & haunting portrait of the human condition. Whether it's sacrifice or survival. It's an arduous film going experience. At the halfway mark I couldn't imagine I'd ever watch a Letter Never Sent ever again. By the end I felt, "how could I not?"
½ July 7, 2012
This is a style-over-substance kind of film, one that looks absolutely stunning and contains some truly awe-inspiring camera tricks but which is ultimately a little unsatisfying, story-wise. It is about a foursome of explorers who are dropped into the endless marshy woods of Siberia to search for diamonds, only to find that getting the treasure is the easier part of the journey. What follows is an intense albeit repetitive story of survival, with a potentially deadly love triangle subplot thrown into the mix. Director Mikhail Kalatozov paints this story in thick black and white, using high contrast to differentiate his lost protagonists from the stark, thin trees all around them. Brilliantly, he uses the camera as a piece of the film's action. In one scene it becomes a characters fist and cuts in on the violence as he beats up another character; in others, it whips and turns to take on an almost documentary-like role in seeing what the characters see, at the time they see it. Even more impressive is the way Kalatozov handles the scenes that revolve around a massive forest fire. The fire seems to big to have been a studio setup, yet imagining a crew trying to control something this enormous and dangerous is almost unfathomable. I was hypnotized as I watched sequences that went in and out and all around these fast-spreading flames. But beyond the masterful technical work on display here, I found little to hold onto as the film progressed into its third act. The story unleashes most of its drama in its first act, and many of the film's best dramatic keynotes are diminished early. By the end, we're just running to complete the marathon, even if the scenery makes the trip worthwhile.
½ May 26, 2012
One of the most depressing movies I've ever seen and I loved every second of it. Part romance part existential survival tale, the movie is a wonder to behold. The best B&W photography this side of "Night of the Hunter," I sat in awe the entire 97 minutes. 1/2 star off for too many fades to black.
April 30, 2012
Four geologists trying to find diamonds in the Siberian tundra get themselves into a life-or-death situation in a forest fire. Like in the other films of his that I've seen, director Mikhail Kalatozov once again demonstrates that he is a real cinematic master. This survival film features some stunning on-location work, jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography and inventive use of editing and dissolves. Beyond that, the compelling survival story still shines through.
April 28, 2012
3: This is some extremely inspiring and artistic propaganda. The Nazi's have it beat, with Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and Olympia, but more because of subject matter than anything else. This probably isn't the Soviet's best either, as I'd say that would fall to Eisenstein. Still, it is beautiful and inspiring to the very end. There are times when one can't help but feel a swell of emotion and have one's breath taken away. The beating of the heart/drum as we learn that the final protagonist has indeed survived is superb. The desolate Siberian landscapes are sweeping and epic, while the message seems clear: one must sacrifice and remain loyal and steadfast to the end in order to serve the fatherland (as it was translated here). It seems to have been tailor made to inspire it's target audience, the Soviet citizen. For me, the fantasies of an industrial utopian revolution when coupled with the pristine beauty couldn't help but bring to mind the great state of Utah's motto.
April 7, 2012
Nature guards her secrets rather jealously, and only those who persevere can wrench them from her grasp. Those who are bold enough. But we'll search and search, and search again.
½ March 23, 2012
Mikhail Kalatozov is a filmmaker that is responsible for possibly my favorite film of all time in 'The Cranes Are Flying', so whenever I watch one of his films, I hope it somehow matches that masterpiece. While, 'The Letter Never Sent' isn't quite on that level, it is a beautiful, tragic film. This is Kalatozov's ode to the pioneers of Russia, whose sacrifices on both a physical and mental level, helped Russia's progression as a country. The thing I have always loved about Kalatozov is how expressive his visuals are. From the very beginning, when our pioneers are dropped into the wilderness, a beautiful helicopter shot, which shoes these men disappear into the vast Siberian landscape, setting the mood. Hell, there are so many examples in this film of where the camerawork or editing relays the characters emotions and feelings. I was very impressed with how Kalatozov manages the four pioneers, each of which, i found myself emotionally invested in for difference reasons. It's another one of those films which is both visually stunning, technically brilliant, and emotionally devastating. It's definitely the best of Kalatovzov's films I have seen, outside of Cranes of course...
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
December 10, 2010
"The Letter That Was Never Sent" is an awesomely shot but politically troubling tale of three geologists and their guide who are searching for diamonds in the pristine wilderness of Siberia.(Two of whom, Andrei(Vasili Livanov) and Tanya(Tatyana Samojlova,) are in love.) In summer, they have no luck, so they decide to stay until fall when curiosity turns into obsession.

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.)
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