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Author:  T.D. Zambalova
Source:  T.D. Zambalova. The Sacred Baikal = Nangin Dalai. – Ulan Ude, 2000. – pp. 43-44.

In 1970 the feature film “By the Lake” by the famous film maker S. Gerasimov was released. The film was devoted to constructing a cellulose and paper making plant on the shore of Lake Baikal. Gerasimov touches upon the problem of man and nature relations. The heroes of the film, Professor Barmin, his daughter Lena, the director of the plant under construction Chernykh talk and argue a lot about it. Other characters also argue. Different points of view clash. Professor Barmin and his daughter Lena are principally against the construction. The scientist condemns the people who speak out in favour of the unique nature of the lake, but at the same time agree with the construction under the pressure of officials. He thinks them to be people doing a deal with the devil. The message of the film is clear from a lot of judgments and opinions of the heroes: man is responsible for the environment, for the changes in nature, he should live not in present only, but foresee the future, he should be guided not by his wishes, but by nature laws. The Baikal is one of the main heroes of the film. The lives of the characters, the main problem of the film and its philosophic understatement are connected with the lake.

The film begins with an impressive picture of Lake Baikal, its power and vastness. A boat is out of sight in the expanse. The surface is slightly rippled. The Baikal as if devours the screen. The film is black and white. Gerasimov said that first they wanted to make the film coloured. But all of a sudden the magnificence, power and severity of the sea-lake disappeared. What’s more, the feeling of unusual transparence and crystal clarity of its smooth surface disappeared too. The black and white film managed to convey all this to a great extent.

There is much “pure” nature in the film. Steep shores covered with forests, hills and mountains… The Baikal landscapes are very important and active backgrounds in almost each scene. Human life is inseparable from the land’s natural beauty. The Baikal nature, unfriendly, snowy, with the icy thrilling wind of sarma, but more often sunny, generous and splendid in its blossom, accompanies the heroes’ lives throughout the film.

It kind of shares their troubles and corresponds with their mood. The fresh morning in Tankhoi welcoming Lena and Chernykh who have just arrived there, is just like this, as well as the gloomy day with flying autumn leaves, with white caps on the turbid Baikal waves, when Lena, in rage and despair, goes to see her sweetheart who seems to have betrayed her. The girl remembers her father’s funeral day and the fog, melancholic bare trees, sadly swaying blades of grass remind her of it.

The film “By the Lake” is an innovative one to some extent. Gerasimov was one of the first film makers to put up an extremely important, topical problem of man and nature relations in the time of scientific and technological revolution and specific questions of protecting the environment. Gerasimov highlighted the moral aspects of that problem in the film. The film “By the Lake” won an international prize in Karlovy Vary and the USSR State Prize.




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