The meaning of the film “Burnt by the Sun” by Nikita Mikhalkov

In 1994, Nikita Mikhalkov’s film “Burnt by the Sun” was released on cinema screens and was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation. Later, the picture becomes the winner of the Oscar and is awarded the Grand Prix of the 47th Cannes Film Festival. The receipt by a film of several such high awards at once is a unique case in the history of Russian cinema.

The film tells about the life of Soviet people on the eve of the war. A film about heroism, betrayal, love, hatred and revenge. This is a story about the life of a military leader’s family, typical of the time of repression.


Shortly before the start of the war, two melodies sounded on all the dance floors of the country, which became extremely popular. These are “Rio Rita” and “Burnt Sun”. Until now, the sounds of these dances cause listeners to associate with the times of the late 1930s.

Most likely, that is why the director decided to give the film a title consonant with the name of the famous dance. Tango sounds throughout the film, like a leitmotif. By association with the famous novel by M. Mitchell “Gone with the Wind”, the picture is called “Burnt by the Sun”.

The fate of one family is shown against the backdrop of impending cataclysms. The citizens of the USSR are so tired of the radiance of the Great Leader that they do not seem to notice the approaching disaster. Behind the ostentatious carefree fun hides horror and suspicion that something is wrong in the country.


The action takes place in the hot summer of 1936, before the start of political repressions, which mainly affected the top military leaders. The legendary commander, a native of a worker-peasant family, a hero, an order bearer, treated kindly by Stalin himself, Sergei Petrovich Kotov is the main character of the picture. He is married to a former noblewoman named Marusya. The beginning of the film is an idyllic picture of the Kotov family staying at a dacha outside Moscow. Rest under the bright sun, swimming in the river, country dinners, empty talk… What can break such a pastoral picture?

Suddenly, a certain Mitya appears at the dacha – a native of the “former”, a musician, in the past a family friend and fiance of Marusya. Mitya, who disappeared many years ago, as it turned out, had been abroad all this time.

Even before the October Revolution, Mitya was a member of the White movement, then he emigrated and wandered around Europe. In 1927, Mitya returned to Russia with the hope of marrying Marusa, but his plans did not come true. Divisional Commander Kotov summoned him to his high office and forced him to write a statement asking him to be sent to Paris “to engage in musical activities.” In fact, Mitya was supposed to track down emigrants who, like him once, served in the White Army. The agent gets the nickname “Musician” and leaves again for a long time. And Kotov, meanwhile, marries Marusa.

Marusya was passionately in love with her fiancé. So much so that she even tried to commit suicide.

The divisional commander, who once fought the bourgeoisie, is gradually becoming a “master” himself. A huge dacha, servants – all this he acquires during the years of Soviet power.

Despite the repressions that have begun, Kotov is sure that no one will dare to touch him, the favorite of Stalin himself. But it turns out that Mitya, being an employee of the NKVD, appeared in the family precisely in order to prepare the division commander for the upcoming arrest. He hints to the owner of the house about the need to destroy documents, about saving the family, but Kotov believes in his immunity.

Making hints to Kotov, Mitya commits malfeasance. He does this only for the sake of Marusya and her salvation, thereby trying to somehow whitewash his meanness. After all, it is he who has to carry out the arrest of his rival.


The fate of one family completely repeats the fate of millions of families. A major military leader was arrested and then shot, later his wife would be arrested and die in prison, their daughter would go through the Gulag.

The fate of Mitya, an ordinary ordinary intellectual who turned into a traitor, is not at all the way it could have been if not for the revolution and the Civil War.

Divisional Commander Kotov, who once sent an opponent away from Marusya, receives a reverse blow. Mitya’s revenge is cold. He sends the divisional commander to the Stalinist dungeons as usual, as if he does it daily.

To show the dark page of the country’s history, the tragedy of the 30s, to tell what tyranny is – this is the meaning of the film “Burnt by the Sun”.

The last shots of the film are symbolic. Soaring in the sky, a huge portrait of the dictator fills the entire space. Nothing and no one can resist his will – neither the previous services to the motherland and the party, nor blind faith in the victory of communism.


But in the finale, the director makes it clear to the viewer that, despite the ideology of Bolshevism, Christian values ​​remain unchanged. Mitya, who betrayed his ideals, faith and love, committed meanness and betrayal, ends his life by suicide. Moreover, he does it in the same way that Marusya tried to do.

Revenge did not bring satisfaction to the former White Guard, and now the Chekist. He understands that, most likely, he himself will be next in line for execution, and that there is no forgiveness for him either before God or before people.

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