English Title: Ruslan and Ludmila
Original Title: Ruslan i Lyudmila
Country: Soviet Union
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Director: Alekandr Ptushko
Music: Tikhon Khrennikov
Ptushko is Hailed as Walt Disney of the Soviet Union, this epic fantasy is the swan song (he passed away in 1973) and unequivocally his most ambitious work. Based on Pushkin’s poem, RUSLAN AND LUDMILA runs 150 minutes, which allows Ptushko to mould an extensively lavish set to minutely fabricate the fairy tale, in a children-friendly fashion. Ruslan (Kozinets), a valiant knight, is going to marry Ludmila (Petrova), the prepossessing daughter of Prince Vladimir of Kiev (Abribosov), but in their wedding night, Ludmila is abducted by an evil dwarf wizard, Chernomor (Fyodorov) who is in alliance with a vengeful witch Naina (Kapnist), so Ruslan is on his way to rescue her, together with three other rivals who are also yearning for Ludmila, they are Rogdai (Mokshantsev), a sully-looking warrior, Ratmir (Akhmetov), a young Khazar Khan and Farlaf (Nevinnyy), a portly gourmand.
As a master of stop-motion filmmaking, four decades later, Ptushko’s sleights of hand are all the same enthralling to appreciate prominently as a novelty before CGI-era, crude but fantastic, Naina’s witchcraft, Chernomor’s magic beard, the giant slumbering human head, the wizard’s hat which can make people invisible, a crafty juxtaposition of labouring giants and normal-size humans, and the combat between Ruslan and Chernomor in the soaring sky, all can effortlessly take the audience’s breath away at that time.
Nevertheless, the momentum slumps in the last half-hour, where Kiev is under siege from its barbaric attackers, here, so obvious that Ptushko is not competent to command the large scale of action sequences, the battle scenes are generically haphazard, extras are playing house, and shoddy models are ubiquitous. All the more, the acting, is the simplest type which leaves no trace of subtlety or empathy, fairly straightforward to the degree that every toddler can feasibly comprehend who is good and who represents evil, Ruslan is the invincible hero and Ludmila is the fearless heroine, who can single-handedly fend off Chernomor and his minions with all the pillows on the bed, Naina is the source of evil and Chernomor is merely a jester. It all can be subsumed as the standard Disney franchise, but unfortunately it becomes ever so distracting from adult’s eyes. With all due respect to Ptushko and his screw for their laborious effort, a 6.3/10 is my conscientious vote for this one.