Swan Lake - The Zone

Director: Yuri Illienko
Screenwriters: Yuri Illienko, Sergi Paradjanov

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


With three days left on his prison term, a man escapes from the Zone and hides in a hammer-and-sickle monument. Starved and exhausted, he is, nursed hack to health by a woman who discovers him. They fall in love, hut the man is betrayed by the woman's jealous son and is returned to prison with an extended sentence. His failed escape leads the prisoner to attempt suicide, but he is revived at the morgue with a blood transfusion from a guard. He voluntarily returns to the Zone, which merits the commuting of his sentence to the original term. However, as the prisoner waits for his release and the woman he loves, his life is threatened by the other prisoners because he has received blood from a guard.

Swan Lake's grim realism can be credited to co-writer Sergei Paradjanov, who based the story on his real-life experiences in a Ukrainian prison. Virtually free of dialogue, the film stitches its emotional tapestry with Illienko's aggressive camera, and sound and editing that is always to the point. Yet Swan Lake ulti-mately exhibits a lyrical quality with its symbolic images, archetypical character and macabre humor. Awarded the International Critics Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Swan Lake is clearly one of the most compelling films the Festival has to offer.

— Alberto Garcia

Screening Details

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