In 1919, during the Russian Civil War, a small force of the Red Army soldiers, who survived an overwhelming defeat by the White Guards, is forced to retreat from the Caspian Sea to flee to the Karakum desert. The small group consists of 23 fighters and the Commissar Arsenti [Nikolai Kryuchkov]. Unique landscapes, particularly close distant shots, the sand reminds of snow.
Marzutka [Izolda Izvitskaya] is the best shooter, has already killed 38 Whites. Through its unruly and degraded character, the purity of her emotions and the purity of her soul are distinguished. He writes naive poems and remains faithful to the revolution. The actor shines through the desert dust.
Shortly thereafter, the unit collides with a small White Soldiers mission, and Marzutka kills two of them. She shoots their officer, who is finally captured alive.
The man, a lieutenant named Vadim [Oleg Strizhenov], has secret information of the utmost importance. He has to give that information orally to supreme military authorities. Vadim manages to keep the secret information hidden from the Arsenti team.
Marzutka is in charge of keeping Vadim. The latter is an educated aristocrat who, before the war, enjoyed life and was studying literature.
Tensions arise as the lieutenant is amused and impressed by Marzutka’s attempts to compose poems and defend the principles of the revolution.
When their camels are stolen, the Commissar decides to send the captive lieutenant to their headquarters in Kazalinsk through the Aral Sea. Doing so, a small escort with Vadim are boarding a boat. The boat sinks into a sudden storm and only Marzutka and Vadim remain alive by finding a lodge in a fisherman’s hut on a secluded island.
Vadim is exhausted and severely ill with fever. Marzutka stands by him. The two fall in love and seem to forget the war. A daughter of the revolution falls in love with an enemy. She is described with “positive colors” while their relationship is lyrical and idealized.
When a boat approaches the island, they initially think they are fishermen. Vadim and Marzutka run towards them. Vadim recognizes them as white soldiers and runs to meet them. Marzutka shoots him on his back, killing him. When she realizes that he is dead, he runs into the sea and embraces his corpse.
However, the 41st shot of Marzoutka and the tragic finale were predetermined from the outset by the civil war. Gentleman Vadim would not have been removed from the oath of the officer, and the “red soldier” Marzoutka – from the revolution.
Director Grigori Chukhrai says: “The tragic fate of Marzutka, who fell in love with her enemy – the white officer and then shot him – may seem unlikely today, but war has its own laws, which are not clear to those who did not go through this hell”
You can see the 1956 version [Grigori Chukhrai]
The film originated in 1927 by Yakov Protazanov who was based on the novel by Boris Lavrenyov