1945, Siberia, Ignat arrives at a remote prison camp for people considered 'enemies of the state'. The camp is unguarded but accessible only by train, the inhabitants fending for themselves. A former train driver, Ignat tries to take charge of the camp's locomotives but is sidelined when he has fits. Hearing about a locomotive trapped on a small island, he travels over a dangerous river to find it, but discovers a young German woman living inside the cab...
The 21st Century has seen a massive rise in popular Russian cinema, with a great many of the exported titles based in or around the Second World War. Often deliberately subversive of Hollywood stylings, the national cinema has its own unique language and the films can be quite impenetrable to Western audiences. The Edge is a particularly strange example - marketed in the UK as an adventure war film, it is something completely different, an unclassifiable story that ranges from etheral and dreamlike to harsh and almost nihilistic and in comparison to the often glowing pro-Russian war time films, it offers a very dull view of post-war attitudes.
Details that are key to most war films - the location and the passage of time - seem completely superfluous to Aleksandr Gonorovskiy's script; although we are told that the camp is in Siberia, the forest seems endless and etheral, traversed only by railway lines that seem to serve no purpose. Similarly the storyline seems to drift in different directions with no particular desination in mind - Ingat labours hard to restore and recover the long lost locomotive but there never seems to be any particular reason for him to do so, while his affair with Sofiya is unfulfilling and motiveless. Yet despite running to almost two hours, the film never seems to drag or even feel padded. Ingat's complex relationship with the camp's inhabitants and the girl he discovers provide more than sufficient drama and it is genuinely hard to tell in which direction the film is headed - fortunately it avoids an exposition heavy denoument to end in a fittingly beautiful, ambiguous fashion.
Director Aleksey Uchitel's work on the film is nothing short of magnificent - he eruditely captures the etheral, surreal tone of the script. Like many contemporary Russian films he goes for a gloriously sleek Hollywood look and smooth editing, but with plenty of artistic detail as well, including some creative low angles in a lot of the dialogue scenes. The train shots are a particular highlight of the film and plenty of time is dedicated to showing them running at speed through the white forests with no evident CGI or model shots in use.
Vladimir Mashkov, a Russian actor who has made a few appearances in western cinema, including Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) is tremendously well cast in the lead role, really helping to capture the unusual atmosphere of the film. German actress Anjorka Strechel as the mysterious woman is similarly strong with a good sense of bewilderment and alienation from the rest of the characters.
The Edge is simply an incredible film, but one that may only appeal to a small audience - anyone hoping for an action packed war film, or a conventional narrative flow will probably find this incomprehensible - but viewers who enjoy unconventional, dreamlike, art-house films will find this to be a little masterpiece that comes highly recommended.
|Anyone famous in it?||Vladimir Mashkov - Russian actor who has made a few Hollywood films including Behind Enemy Lines (2001)|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Aleksey Uchitel - a Russian director with a varied oeuvre, including contemporary Russian dramas Progulka (2003) and Vosmerka (2013) and Chechen war film Plennyy (2008).|
|Any gore or violence ?||A little blood|
|Any sex or nudity?||A vivid sex scene and lots of female nudity in a bath house sequence.|
|Who is it for?||Fans of unconventional and etheral films will certainly enjoy this.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The clean digital print, no transfer issues.
|Audio||Russian 2.0 - sounds clear throughout.
Note: German dialogue is translated into Russian by way of voice-over dubbing after the lines are completed.
|Subtitles||English - translate the Russian and German (burnt into the print)|
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - PAL|
|Other regions?||No US release. German Blu-Ray as Edge of War - Zug des Todes with Russian 5.1 and German 5.1/2.0 dub track with German subtitles.|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English with newly created opening titles and a rather crudely inserted title card.|