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FlLMThe State Film Committee
of Russia
Nadezhda Productions
Svetlana Voloshina
with the participation of
Lenfilm Studios
Alexander Sokurov
from the diary
of a ship Commander
A cinematographic narrative
in five parts
Part One
The plot and the characters
of this film
are creations of
the author's imagination.
When he climbed up
the nearest hills,
everything seemed beautiful.
Or perhaps he was just trying
to persuade himself of this.
The deep snow
under his feet
had fallen months ago.
He breathed easily.
The space seemed to contain
a secret.
The air was so still,
that each word spoken
in the bay
could be heard distinctly,
coming from the harbour, or from
the windows of a small settlement,
built upon a dam
stone by stone,
by slaves
several decades ago.
The Commander is now
posted here.
He has left the banks
of the Neva.
That's why
he always has
something to recall.
He would say over
in his mind
the names of the streets
and would imagine himself
touching the stones
of its shore.
He even saw
the faces of people
who walked down
the long boulevard
and those faces were
both kind and intelligent.
He often caught himself
for kindness
and intelligence.
He had understood
early in life
the particular hardness
of military service.
He faced it with courage
and patience.
Yet he didn't know
that patience was...
painfully hard work.
As night fell
it became colder,
and terribly quiet...
The Commander recalled
something from Chekhov,
some lines that he hadn't really
understood until now.
The Commander remembered them
almost word for word:
''For whole weeks
the sky was covered
with leaden clouds,
and it seemed
to the inhabitants
that the dreary weather
would go on forever.
Weather like this drives one
to depression
and drink.
Perhaps this is
what made
indifferent people cruel,
while many good
and downtrodden souls,
not seeing the sun
for weeks and months,
forever lost hope
of a better life.
Fogs are quite common here.
They are a real disaster
for seamen.
The salty sea fogs destroy
the plants on the shore.
The gloomy sky,
the sea without a single sail,
the steep, loamy bank
it is all so harsh.''
How lucky that Russia should have
had such a man as Chekhov.
What a pleasure it is
to recall his words, his phrases...
l can't see.
The Commander could not decide
whether he should keep a diary
to record the course of his life.
What if, by chance
someone were to read it?
Bring some sand over here
and a clean piece of rag.
Break the ice.
Hearing the bosun's cries,
he realises there's a problem
on deck.
Some oil's been spilled
on the deck.
The Commander remembered
this sound
of human hands sliding
over the oily surface
of the ice-cold steel.
l wonder,
what is he thinking about?
Ah... about nothing.
Most likely they hate
military service...
How stupid l am: is it possible to
like something you are forced to do?
Perhaps only
by becoming used to it?
No pity for that sailor.
He spilled the oil on the deck
lt was he who spilled the oil.
He has to clean it.
No one but himself.
lt has to be cleaned up.
ln the waves,
under the snow,
in this oily puddle
another seaman could perish,
just slip and fall
into the sea.
There may be no one at hand
to throw him a life-belt,
and his miserable cry for help
will be lost in the dark waves.
The waters of the northern seas
are brutally cold...
and a man's heart, even
a young and warm one,
will freeze within minutes.
...let him endure it.
Let him clean it up.
When it's cold
there's emptiness.
No, of course
it's not good that l had
no pity for the man.
''They must believe
that freedom is beyond price'',
wrote down the Commander.
''My subordinates examine the men
once a week,
as if they were babies.
Why do they do it?
Because their subordinates
are not free?
Or because most of them
don't know how to deal

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