Reviewed for Nostalghia.com by Gonzalo Blasco:
There Will Be No Leave Today (1959)
Original title: Segodnya uvolneniya ne budet
VGIK Film School Short
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and Aleksandr Gordon
Black & White
46 min (approx.)
Screened 9-Aug-02 and 11-Aug-02
At Cine Doré, Filmoteca Española, Madrid, Spain
Segodnya is a film about the heroes of the Soviet Army in time of peace.
Tarkovsky and his VGIK colleague Alexander Gordon present us with a film
that is in the vein of the typical Soviet "propaganda film." Only a few elements
can be discerned of the Tarkovsky we all know today. Don't expect in Segodnya
a film like Ivan's Childhood or even Steamroller.
This film may be considered a B&W classic suspense film for summer open air cinemas.
The film starts our accompanied by the typical score you find in all those American films
of the 1940-50s: music purpose-written for film. As in other VGIK works of
Tarkovsky, the action takes place in a prosperous URSS town. A worker digging
with an excavator stumbles upon an old WWII cache of bombs. The Army is dispatched
to inspect the area, finding what turns out the be an arsenal of considerable size...
All army manuals state that old arsenals should be destroyed on-site by detonation.
But this one is way too big; there would be too much damage inflicted on
the local town. They thus have to adopt a heroic mission: to manually transport
all bombs out of town.
It is morning, the entire town is evacuated, there is a cast-of-thousands scene with
buses, carts, and bicycles in a massive exodus. Our heroes carry bombs one by one,
very carefully, in a series of scenes filled with tension, with the characteristic suspense
music. Of course the bombs are just about to explode several times, but disaster
is always avoided. Like in Ivan's Childhood there is here a common hate
against Germans - one may assume this arsenal is a remnant from the German occupation.
Finally, the truck that carries away the bombs to a secure place is followed
by cameras in a long take accompanied by a continuous roar on the soundtrack. A
bomb appears to be about to explode, and a soldier jumps back in the truck and
grabs the bomb to save the others. Finally, the bomb explodes behind some trees, and
it may appear that our hero is dead! But of course, in a propaganda movie a hero
The film ends with the entire population returning to town, to the tunes of "victorious
music," and the arsenal being detonated in parallel time. Everyone is grateful
to the Soviet Army, soldiers embrace their beloved, their girlfriends.
The film comes across as a much more professional production than
the earlier Killers. Although it is a school work, the production is actually quite superb. Costumes,
acting, and film-technical qualities... it is all very good. But the plot is
In my opinion, the main problem in this film is the somewhat exaggerated patriotism.
We find none of the typical Tarkovskian subtleties, no transcendental spiritual elements.
After seeing Steamroller, it is obvious to me that the works of
VGIK students are mere political vehicles. If the State gives so much money to a student,
it is logical that they have some say in the production, I suppose...
The most significant things this film contributed to Tarkovsky career? The first
opportunity to work with good actors, perhaps, and a lot of money to do exteriors.
A practical orthodox exercise of commercial-professional production.
To the viewer of the film, however, there is not much of real interest.
Perhaps trying to detect early elements of the mature Tarkovsky may
help the bored Tarkovsky aficionado stay awake... I think one may find certain
traces, if one looks closely.
The above synopsis/review is reproduced here with the permission of
Gonzalo Blasco. This is a condensed version of a review published in Spanish on
the author's own website. This version was written for Nostalghia.com; Trond
helped polish up the English a bit.
Note that opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of nostalghia.com/mastersofcinema.org webmasters.
We at Nostalghia.com are indebted to Mr.
Blasco for permitting us to post the above translation, which consititutes
the first-ever English-language review/synopsis of There Will Be No Leave
Today. Those who are able to read Spanish should check out Gonzalo Blasco's
own comprehensive Tarkovsky web site,
where detailed reviews of the films of Tarkovsky, including the VGIK shorts, may be found.