They Fought for their Motherland
(Oni srazhalis za rodinu)

Screening on Film
Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk.
With Vasily Shukshin, Vyacheslav Tikhonov, Sergei Bondarchuk, Georgi Burkov, Yuri Nikulin, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolai Gubenko.
USSR, 1975, 35mm, color, 143 min.
Russian with English subtitles.

Bondarchuk and Ovchinnikov’s second collaboration after the mammoth War and Peace is a fairly literal adaptation of the World War II novel by Mikhail Sholokhov. Set in July 1942, it follows an exhausted Soviet army regiment on the retreat to Stalingrad and the series of large-scale battles it faces. Ovchinnikov’s pastiche score draws in part upon elements from his earlier scores for A Nest of Gentry, Earth, and Arsenal, and here serves a more supporting role to the narrative. Drums and chromatic clusters punctuate the explosive battle scenes, disquieting octatonic scales hover over the marching troops, and an undulating chorale captures the hope and struggle of the soldiers and the motherland they seek to defend.

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