Home on the Red Range. The Ostern.

White Sun of the Desert (1969) is one of the most popular Russian films of all time and is ritually watched by cosmonauts before space launches.

The Ostern, or “Eastern” – not to be confused with the Red Western (Eastern European films that took place in the American West) – was the Soviet and Eastern Bloc riff on the Western film genre. They were made from the late 50’s and on into the 80’s, with the high-water mark being hit in the 70’s. The adventure, action and comedy took place on the steppes and in the Asian parts of the Soviet Union and tended to chronicle the Russian Revolution and the Civil War that followed it.

As an example, below is the trailer for Dauriya (1971), a historical action/drama that took three years to film and featured over 500 extras. It’s set in Siberia and is said to have affected the political landscape of the region upon its release…

Influenced by everyone from John Ford to Sergio Leoni, but also developing a cinematic language and aesthetic all their own, these films were generally propagandist in nature. They actively celebrated the working class, stereotyped non-Russians and demonized organized religion. But never, it seems, at the cost of delivering a ripping action-filled yarn.

At Home among Strangers (1974) is considered the most significant of the osterns.

I’ve just started looking into these movies and haven’t watched any yet, so I don’t have a lot to say here. This post is really just a research-dump. But I have to admit to being extremely compelled by the idea of these films and as you can see, the imagery in the trailers and posters is absolutely stunning.

The Bodyguard (1979) is a “savage tale, in which the arid, unforgiving landscape of the Central Asian mountains mirrors the psychological intensity of the conflict between the characters, their grimly determined emotions and violent altercations.”

The earliest ostern is called Miles of Fire (1957, aka The Burning Miles). A Russian Civil War drama made before the term ‘ostern’ was ever in use. The miracle of Youtube has the full film with English subtitles.

I’m very much looking forward to digging into this stuff.

Posted on by Joshua Dysart Posted in Film & TV, Journal

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