During her life, the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1965) came to symbolize the resilience of free artistic expression against the tyranny of the Soviet system. Her courageous life and her astonishing literary output is not very well known in this country, and it would seem that she is the perfect candidate for a biographical documentary.
Unfortunately, Akhmatova’s spirit is ill served with this sloppy, boring and frequently confusing production by Helga Landauer. For no clear reason, Landauer chose to appoint poet Anatoly Naiman as the sole on-screen commentator of Akhmatova’s life. Naiman’s monotonous raconteur skills never matches the genuine drama of Akhmatova’s life, and only the most patient viewer will have the fortitude to hunt out information in the muck of Naiman’s dreary babble.
Landauer doesn’t help matters by throwing in miles of irrelevant film footage with absolutely no connection to Akhmatova’s experiences: swinging pendulums, audiences watching silent movies and circus elephants parading down a city street are inexplicably shown while Naiman drones endlessly. A few very rare audio recordings of Akhmatova reciting her long-suppressed work are inserted, though the importance of these works within 20th century Russian literature is never cogently explained.
At one point, Landauer films a contemporary festival celebrating the poet – but the footage includes a disgruntled individual yelling, “Let’s get out of here!” before the event begins. After watching this film, you can’t blame that person for making such a statement!