‘Not only a gripping portrait of Soviet Russia; the film very aptly depicts the distance that can arise between generations.’
‘A homage to the power of Russian mothers’
This is an exceptionally beautiful, deeply moving film about Aliona’s Russian mother and her five sisters. Their mind-boggling stories about life under Stalin are masterfully and poetically depicted by the famous animation artist Simone Massi: a small history of women, about major events.
One day, Aliona inherits one-sixth of the wooden house in the Russian countryside where her mother was raised. Together with the members of her Russian family, she clears out the house, learning all the while about her mother’s unknown past and that of her mother’s five sisters. That’s no easy task; they want to let sleeping dogs lie. Yet everyone bears the marks of that past: the lack of everything, the obligatory sacrifice for the greater good, the insignificance of the individual. Very cautiously, she manages to get at the stories – and the details that initially seemed amusing emerge in a completely different light.
Aliona van der Horst is one of the Netherlands’ best documentary makers. She tells this personal story in such a refined and fascinating way that the movie acquires the allure of a feature film. In the way her family members bear out their lives, they are at once both small and grandiose. Thanks in part to the poetic imagery that Massi uses to portray the past, the film moves forward to a climax that will deeply touch you.