Dawn | Chicago Reader


Shimmering black-and-white cinematography by Wojciech Staron affords the only pleasure in this grim, unsparing drama about a Soviet collective farm in Latvia in the 1960s. Writer-director Laila Pakalnina riffs on a now-debunked propaganda story about a member of the Young Pioneers (the communist equivalent of the Boy Scouts) who was murdered by his loutish father after denouncing him as an enemy of the state. Aside from the boy, there's no one in this 2015 feature to root for—not the peasants, who are easily incited to mayhem; nor the bureaucrat sent to evaluate the farm, whose avuncular manner masks his disdain; nor the sleep-deprived head of the collective, who's struggling to increase production. The utopian goals of the revolution are mocked throughout the film; in the final sequence, the last thing the dying boy hears is a fairy tale about crop yields. In Latvian with subtitles.


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