1997 filmsDramasForeign FilmGuest Reviewsmovies of the 90sRussian

Damian Lahey on ‘The Thief’ (1997)

review by Damian Lahey

The end has come at last – today we are sharing filmmaker Damian K. Lahey’s last review in this series, this one for a Russian film from the 90s.  

Check it out!

This is a very bleak film. An emotionally devastating and somber portrayal of life in Russia shortly after WWII. A young boy’s mother falls in love with a man posing as a Russian general. While her intentions towards this man are sincere, his intentions are anything but. He’s an insufferable rake, a con man and a drunk. However, he is the only father figure the boy has. What unfolds is riveting but uncomfortable to watch at times.

I applaud Chukhray for the mature and responsible way he handles the material here. He also draws parallels between characters in the story and the relationship between Stalin and his people. Not sure I buy into that 100%, but the film doesn’t need a metaphorical undercurrent to be a powerful one.

The cinematography by Vladimir Klimov and the production design by Viktor Petrov vividly recreates the period in haunting tones that intensify the conditions of the time. But this is the sort of film that will live and die by its cast and what a cast it is! Vladimir Mashkov, Yekaterina Rednikova and Mikhail Filipchuk make every beat and every line count. To immerse people fully in a world like this you just can’t falter and this film never does. All the components come together.

This film chronicles people in dire circumstances willing to overlook what is right in front of them for love and security of any kind and unfortunately, they all pay the price.

Directed by Pavel Chukhrai
Written by Pavel Chukhrai
Starring Vladimir Mashkov, Yekaterina Rednikova, and Misha Philipchuk
Produced by Igor Bortnikov, Sergei Kozlov and Igor Tolstunov
Music by Vladimir Dashkevich
Cinematography by Vladimir Klimov
Edited by Marina Dobryanskaya and Natalya Kucherenko