Storm Over Asia (1928)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Propaganda Film  |   Run Time - 145 min.  |   Countries - Russia   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Todd Kristel

Storm Over Asia has historical significance for several reasons. It was directed by renowned filmmaker and theorist Vsevolod Pudovkin. Also, it was atypical of Soviet films of that time period because it did not feature Russian heroes or an obvious pro-Soviet message, although it did include propagandistic attacks on both capitalism and British imperialism (the occupying forces were later identified as White Russians in some prints). Furthermore, the movie was shot on location in Mongolia with a cast featuring many local nonprofessional actors; it includes ethnographic footage of ceremonial dances, healing rituals, and fur trading in the marketplace. But Storm Over Asia is worth seeing for another reason: it is a tightly constructed, entertaining film. In addition to beautifully composed shots and virtuosic editing, the film offers a compelling (albeit heavy-handed) story of an individual struggling with adversity; it places a greater emphasis on personal drama than such well-known Soviet silent films as Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, for example. Storm Over Asia is a gripping historical epic with a rousing finale and some remarkable scenes; the sequence in which a British officer is ordered to shoot the film's protagonist is particularly memorable. The film also contains its share of irony and humor, as demonstrated in the close-ups of the British officers dressing themselves and the buildup to the grand llama's appearance. How much you enjoy Storm Over Asia may depend on whether you see a remastered print or a shorter version; nonetheless, it is an important part of film history that's worth seeing if you get the chance.