Silent Souls

Silent Souls (Овсянки; the actual translation is “Buntings,” referring to a type of bird) is a 2010 Russian drama, one of the recent crop of artistic, internationally recognized independent Russian cinema. It is based on the short story of the same name by Denis Osokin (Денис Осокин). Osokin has published quite a lot of poetry and several novels, though he seems best known for Silent Souls.

The film tells the story of combine director Miron Alekseevich, whose wife, Tatyana, has just died. He goes on a journey to the location of their honeymoon through some cities and towns not far from Moscow, carrying her body, which he will cremate when he arrives. Along the way, he tells the story of their lives together to a photographer, Aist, who he has brought with him. Aist, in turn, has brought two bunting birds. Miron and Aist are following the tradition of the Merya (Меря) people, an ancient Finno-Ugric tribe who lived along the Volga River. The film invents a fictional Merya culture—the actual tribe disappeared long ago, and little is known for sure about them.

The film got fantastic reviews from critics, both Russian and international—an almost unpredecented 95 percent of the worldwide reviews were positive, according to Film.ru—though it received average reviews from audiences. The film was praised not only for its artistry and beautiful screenplay (written by Osokin) but also for its willingness to tell a different-than-usual story about the “Russian soul,” showing the myriad ethnicities that lie beneath.

In 2012, Osokin wrote a second film for the same director, Aleksey Fedorchenko (Алексей Федорченко), called The Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari (Небесные жёны луговых мари), based on another of his novels.

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Director: Aleksey Fedorchenko (Алексей Федорченко)
Stars: Yuriy Tsurilo (Юрий Цурило), Yulia Aug (Юлия Ауг), Igor Sergeev (Игор Сергеев), Viktor Sukhorukov (Виктор Сухоруков), Vyacheslav Melekhov (Вячеслов Мелехов), Larisa Domaskina (Лариса Домаскина)
Production company: Aprel MIG Pictures
Box office take: $411,000

 

Official trailer:

 

Silent Souls

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Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.