A long but hopeful cancellation line waited -- with some success -- for last-minute tickets to today's initial and sold-out screening of Marleen Gorris' biographical film about imprisoned poet/professor Evgenia Ginzberg WITHIN THE WHIRLWIND. The film was shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater, where there will be two more screenings of the movie tomor-
row, Thursday, January 28, at 3:45 and 8:45. Although both showings are sold out, if today's was any indication, you might have some luck procuring seats.
Gorris' film (the director is shown at left) is worth the extra trouble, and although the filmmaker told her audience at the Q&A following the screening that her producers were currently in talks for possible U.S. distribution, you never know. Over the years, TrustMovies has found that seeing a film at the Walter Reade often becomes one's best and last chance -- and prevents frustration and disappointment later on.
You'll probably remember Ms Gorris (shown above) as the filmmaker whose movie Antonia's Line (for my money one of the great films of all time) won a deserved Oscar for 1996's Best Foreign Film. She also made the interesting, if not totally successful, Mrs. Dalloway; The Luzhin Defence and the film that put her on the map, A Question of Silence. Now, in Within the Whirlwind, Gorris is working at very close to her best, using her star, the very fine Emily Watson (who worked with the director previously on Luzhin) to excellent advantage. Watson has her finest role since her film debut in Breaking the Waves, and this new movie is even better than what she made for the jokey Mr.von Trier.
Nancy Larson, from Ms Ginzburg's own memoir, the film tosses us, almost from the first, into the paranoid purges of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin and his apparatchiks (Ginzburg's chief adversary is played by Ian Hart, below). We quickly learn that Evgenia's husband is going to be of little help. Whether he is frightened for his own skin or that of their children, Evgenia is soon on her own. If you know history at all, you'll also know that few of the Russian intelligentsia of the time escaped these purges. Imprisonment was preferable to death, and Ginzburg manages the former -- in the Siberian gulag.
Ulrich Tukur, of yesterday's North Face post) be a source of joy and help.
As a writer and poet, Ginzburg is sustained through her imprisonment by the art of poetry. One of Gorris' achievements is to give this poetry its proper place, along with the politics of the time, the horror of prison life and the sustaining love Ginzburg finds from both her women co-prisoners and her doctor. That the filmmakers manage to honor all these with intelligence and feeling adds up to a quiet triumph.