Carol of the Bells Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

On January 5, the Ukrainian-Polish historical drama “Shchedryk” directed by Olesya Morgunets-Isayenko was released on the big screens of Ukraine. The world premiere of the film took place on March 4, 2022. At that time, we were not into cinema, but the film managed to travel around the world, to visit various festivals in many countries. We finally watched it, so now we are ready to share our impressions.

“Schedryk” / Carol of the Bells

Genre story, drama
Directed by Olesya Morgunets-Isayenko
Starring Yana Koroleva, Andrii Mostrenko, Polina Gromova, Anastasia Mateshko, Yoanna Opozda, Myroslav Ganishevskyi, Tomash Sobchak, Alla Bineeva, Khrystyna Ushytska, Oksana Mukha
Premiere cinemas
Release year 2023
IMDb site

1939 year. City of Stanislaviv (Ivano-Frankivsk). Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish families live in the same house. Not all is well between them, especially between Poles and Ukrainians. But the occupation of Poland by the Germans with the help of the Soviet Union brings people together and shows who the real enemy is here.

A long war will follow, and then the communist “liberators” will come. Someone will be taken to camps in Germany, someone will be taken by the “Soviets”, but there will always be a place for humanity, courage and love in this house. Shchedrik, which “makes people kinder”, sounds everywhere in times and troubles.

Review of the film

Work on the tape “Schedryk” began long before the start of a full-scale invasion. At that time, few could have imagined that Ukrainian viewers would understand so well the main characters who hear the sirens and hide from the bombings in the basements.

The viewer is familiar with the entire range of emotions of the characters, when “liberators” come to their city, change their flags to foreign ones, settle the military in the apartments of those who were killed or taken to torture.

All these moments from the history of Ukraine now resonate very well with reality, so the viewer dissolves in the film as quickly as possible literally from the first minutes after it begins. Of course, there is also a peaceful life here, quarrels over trifles, clashes between families, misunderstandings and the unspeakable. But it is precisely such moments that intensify the pain, suffering and despair that comes to the home of the heroes and remains there forever.

“Schedryk” was filmed with high quality, and the picture was probably passed through some filter, which makes the movie “old-fashioned”, which means it is more atmospheric and authentic. The limited budget also catches the eye, so 95% of the time recording takes place in the house where the main characters live. And yet, the film team did a good job of conveying the atmosphere of that time. Interior details, clothes, speech, food, customs and a lot of other important details are very carefully selected here.

The song “Schedryk” itself is heard often and on any occasion and symbolizes hope for a good future. True, in some moments its execution seemed illogical or meaningless, but in most cases its content, importance and sacred meaning for our people were conveyed as accurately as possible.

Review of the film

“Schedryk” does a good job of revealing the themes of the Holocaust, the repressions of the USSR against Poles and Ukrainians, the cruelty and stubbornness of the Soviet government. But still, these moments are made in a straight line and too crudely without the misunderstandings, gray tones and double layers that make a good movie outstanding.

Many cool Ukrainian and Polish actors starred in the films. But the biggest impression is made by one of the main characters – music teacher Sofia Ivanyuk. Her role was played by Yana Koroleva and it was the film debut for the girl.

If I had not found this fact on the Internet, I would never have thought that this is the first movie work for the actress. She got the difficult and colorful role of a wife and mother who sees the death of family members. She suffers and despairs, fears and cries, but remains steadfast to the end.

Review of the film

The roles of the Germans, various Soviet officials and the military are incredibly played. The children coped very well with their work, but they became the weakest point of the picture. Of course, I make an allowance for the fact that it is difficult for a child to act, especially in such a serious film. But all the same, their still mostly mediocre acting destroys the impression of several important moments of the plot. I can’t help but note that this applies only to some important scenes, because the children did an excellent job with all the other places.

There is also a certain illogicality in the actions of some characters, and sometimes plot twists did not lead to further disclosure of the story. But all this is just a pale shadow of troubles that cannot spoil a qualitatively shot Ukrainian film that everyone should watch.

Pros: the maximum veracity of the selected historical segment, synchronization with the feelings of modern Ukrainians, incredible attention to detail, good acting, especially the film debut of Yana Koroleva is impressive Cons: mediocre performance of child actors in important scenes, some illogicalities in the plot and actions of the characters, too straightforward presentation of horrors of the Soviet government, the song “Schedrik” is not always appropriate Conclusion:

Shchedryk is a good Ukrainian film made with love and respect for history and people. This is a skillfully conveyed historical period that is painful for us, which resonates more than ever with the present, therefore it almost immediately finds a response in the hearts of the audience. Despite some flaws in the plot and gaps in the children’s acting, “Schedryk” should be seen by every Ukrainian. Because despite all the horrors shown there, this movie offers hope, and it does so with the help of the best and most famous bounty in the world

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