By the Bluest of Seas (1936) – Film Review
The idea of shipwrecked sailors has endured throughout the ages and is one explored in By the Bluest of Seas. There’s something about people stranded on a small patch of sand in the middle of vast sheets of blue that is compelling for audiences.
By the Bluest of Seas flips that idea on its head, and uses the idea of a shipwreck as the basis for the beginnings of quite an intimate love story, a traditional three-way (not dirty) love triangle between our two shipwrecked sailors, Yussuf (Lev Sverdlin) and Aliosha (Nikolai Kryuchkov), and the beautiful Misha (Yelena Kuzmina). The sailors are put to work after washing up near a fishing boat, which is where they encounter Misha. It’s an extremely low-key film, which has largely been forgotten to the vicissitudes of time, due to its small scale extremely twee styling.
It’s a strange choice as a re-release, as the film really hasn’t aged well. An early scene involving Misha singing on the beach as her two admirers look on is almost painful to watch, as Misha has that standard, old-fashioned, extremely quivery soprano that sounds disturbing to modern ears, like the mating call of a distressed goat. That, combined with the unpolished editing and the stilted action, doesn’t make for an easy watch.
To further compound the nightmare, it’s not just Misha who sings. Aliosha also sings, as does Yussuf. This is a world in which when people are in love, they sing. Singing in a film not expressly described as a musical is a despicable act.
The level of interest that you’ll have in this film depends on your level of interest in the Soviet era. The film was made in 1936, in the Soviet Union, and while it might be unfair to point out that M (1931) had already been made at this point, showing what cinema had already acheived by the time this film was made, it shows that not all films from around this time were so stilted and unrealistic. In fact Charlie Chaplin‘s film Modern Times, admittedly made within the Hollywood studio system and not, like this film, in the wilds of the Soviet Union, was actually released in the same year as this film.
It doesn’t even have anything particularly interesting to say politically, or anything at all that wasn’t already said with ten times more power and feeling by Sunrise (1927), by F.W. Murnau. It’s not the fault of the film for being old, or out-of-step with modern times; it’s just not as interesting a re-release as Mr. Bongo’s other aquisitions, namely Dovzhenko‘s War trilogy, but probably worth watching if you’re a semi-obsessive Soviet film completist.