#13 – Baba Yaga

(1957, Ukr, 70 min) Dir Alexander Illienko.

Fantastic mix of colourful live action and stop motion. Young Fadar (a live action boy) is left in the woods by his mother and when he wakes in the night is approached by the stop motion Baba Yaga, first seen by him emerging from the dark of the woods and stepping into the moonlight like a raw ingot of silver. It is one of the great introductions in cinema and that it is of a wood carved old woman makes it all the more impressive. The remainder of the film sees the young boy having adventures with the witch Yaga, taking to the sky by pestle and mortar to spread good or ill-will as the fancy takes her. Everything is perfect – the cinematography, the tone of the script, the eerie soundtrack. Illienko seemed from this, his first feature, to be a considerable future talent both in animation and live action but following his defection to the West three years following Baba Yaga’s release he made only two more films before his death in 1977, both produced in straightened circumstances. At least there is this, his incandescent Baba Yaga, to treasure.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

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