The White Sun of the Desert (Белое солнце пустыни) is a true classic of Soviet cinematography. It is also a movie I recently watched for the first time and immediately decided it would make for an interesting post.
The movie, filmed in 1970, takes place in a desert somewhere near the Caspian Sea… a beautiful sky blue horizon with sand all over. It is the ending of the Russian Civil War and the Red Army soldier Fyodor Sukhov has been fighting in that region for two years. To understand this movie, first it’s necessary to understand the historical context of the time period. Thing is that, after the Revolution of 1917 the Soviets had to re-conquer all those lands that had belonged to the Russian Empire. However, the task wasn’t easy. In central Asia, where the movie is set, Red Army troops continued to face resistance into 1923, where armed bands of Islamic guerrillas, known as the Basmachi, had formed to fight the Bolshevik invasion.
“And then you have the desert and the Caspian landscape. It surrounds everything with a mystical quality all its own, like everything happens in some corner of the world no one will ever know about and one day the sand will cover everything or the last man will just go out wandering in the desert and leave the small village behind forever…” – Chaos Rampant
Just as Sukhov is ready to return home to his dear wife, he faces a new adventure: a desert fight between a Red Army cavalry unit and the Basmachi. Afterwards, the Red Army cavalry unit commander persuades Sukhov to stay and help to protect the harem of the guerrilla leader Abdullah, the one he decided to leave behind because the women only delayed him as he was trying to flee. Leaving Sukhov with a young soldier to assist him with the task, the commander and his cavalry unit set out to pursue Abdullah.
Sukhov’s task proves to be more difficult than he imagines. He suddenly finds himself in charge of the nine wives of Abdullah. Throughout the rest of the movie he has to help protect them, while they believe themselves to be his. However, his wife seems to be the thing that keeps him going as he writes to her every day.
Sukhov leads the women to a decaying village near the Caspian shore. They settle in a large building with a courtyard, which has been converted into a museum. But unfortunately, looking for a seaway across the border, Abdullah and his gang come to the same town… and the action unravels.
This could be considered a small trailer (click here to watch on YouTube). “Your Honor, Lady Luck” is the theme song of the movie and can be heard in the video. This song has become really popular and its fame has only grown as the years passed. Altogether, the movie combines several genres… action, drama, comedy – all mixed in a perfect proportion. It’s an absurd adventure with themes of nostalgia, loss, and regret.