A Not-So-Simple Story: The Ascent (1977)

Sotnikov Rybak

Two characters are faced with a choice between self-preservation and self-sacrifice — or, more fundamentally still, between good and evil. One of them takes the former path, the other the latter. Both must then deal with the consequences of their respective decisions. Boiled down to its essence, it’s a tale simple enough to be a parable or a fable, but it’s also the basis for Larisa Shepitko’s powerful, thought-provoking 1977 film The Ascent.

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Holding Pattern: Wings (1966)

Larisa Shepitko’s 1966 film Wings opens on a crowded street, along which unending streams of people flow ceaselessly both left and right. From this crowd, it appears, one man suddenly turns toward the viewer; the camera then pulls back to reveal that he’s a tailor walking through his quiet, nearly empty shop, undisturbed by the mass of humanity outside his window. His focus is on a customer, a middle-aged woman (Maya Bulgakova) who’s waiting for him in a dressing room. With skillful hands, he takes her measurements for a jacket and skirt, noting the width of her shoulders, the circumference of her waist, and so on and so on, until at last he announces his verdict: “Standard size.” But while that may be true of her clothing, it soon becomes painfully clear that Nadezhda Petrukhina is not a woman built for a standard size life.

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