The history of Ukraine is filled with struggle and tragic events. From a creative point of view, this means that Ukrainian history is a huge reservoir for all kinds of adaptations and works of art. Alas, this topic is practically not touched upon in cinema, and Ukrainian filmmakers have to take the rap for everyone. “Dovbush” definitely deserves attention in this regard, because it is almost the largest Ukrainian historical film. How it turned out – read in our review.
Pros: cool modern look at the history of Oleksa Dovbush; quality in all film elements; competent use of Ukrainian landscapes; exciting action scenes Cons: noticeable problems with editing, due to which the narrative sometimes seems choppy and incomplete
“Dovbush” / Dovbush
Genre historical action
Director Oles Sanin
Starring Sergei Strelnikov, Alexey Gnatkovsky, Daria Plakhtiy, Mateusz Koscukiewicz, Agata Buzek
Release year 2023
The story of the film centers on two brothers – Oleks (Sergei Strelnikov) and Ivan Dovbush (Alexey Gnatkovsky). In the 18th century they try to protect their Carpathian people from the injustice and arrogance of the Polish gentry. Nothing can be resolved using legal methods, so the brothers begin an armed struggle. Only the methods and motives of Oleksa and Ivan are very different, which sooner or later will inevitably lead to conflict.
The real Oleksa Dovbush is one of the brightest heroes of Ukrainian history. A kind of local Robin Hood, who used illegal methods to fight for the good of his people, while not forgetting about his code of honor and higher morality. The film tries to make him a more brutal, but still kind and honest hero. The final image combines mundane and sublime elements, but the fact remains that you quickly become imbued with Oleksa’s charisma, for which special thanks to Sergei Strelnikov.
Local history does not hesitate to regularly test Oleksa’s ideals. Frankly, he is far from a saint, as the narrator of the story states at the very beginning. But it’s all the more interesting to watch how the protagonist copes with all the blows of fate and troubles, which he sometimes creates for himself.
What definitely cannot be taken away from the film is the high dynamics and diversity of what is happening. “Dovbush” lacks the intimacy inherent in many Ukrainian films; there is no sense of laconicism here. Just the opposite – scale and pathos rule everything. This brings the movie very close to Hollywood blockbusters, which in the current context can be considered a big compliment.
The film juggles situations, locations and circumstances almost without interruption. True, sometimes he seems to forget to connect adjacent segments of the story with high-quality editing.
Because of this, sometimes it feels like the film “jumps” through its scenes too often, leading the audience to bewilderment. And if in some places this technique can be attributed to the director’s idea, sometimes the lack of connection in some segments is too striking.
Another option is that through editing the authors wanted to emphasize the focus on the action scenes in the film. And there are a lot of them in “Dovbush”, and many also differ in meaning. The staging of battles here is at a high level both during large-scale battles and during local fights. You definitely won’t get bored.
The film does not try to immerse itself too much in its “historicity,” even though every element is made with great love for the past of Ukraine. Like any good work, “Dovbush” uses the chosen era only to create a quality context, but still tells an independent and complete story. However, lovers of studying the Ukrainian people will definitely find something to admire and study here.
There are also meanings in the film that have not become outdated since the time of Oleksa Dovbush himself. Some of them are about simple humanity and trying to hold on to your land and your people even when it seems impossible. And some ideas go into geopolitical territory, not forgetting to remind how the Russians have blatantly interfered in the affairs of Ukraine at almost all times.
“Dovbush” is a beautiful film. Ukraine itself is an extremely picturesque country, which is why it is very strange that it is so rarely used in cinema (and music videos are shot here regularly).
The Dovbush film crew makes the most of the local landscapes of the Carpathians and the Kyiv region. Nature here successfully complements the pathos of the narrative, and sometimes also creates interesting conditions for the development of individual scenes.
“Dovbush” doesn’t feel too long or cheap. In some places it seems that the movie was directed by a conventional Ridley Scott (though of a modern type).
In it, each element is harmoniously combined with each other – as far as the editing allows, which, what is more, can be considered the main drawback of the film. That’s why emotions after watching remain extremely positive.
They wanted to premiere the film after the end of the war with Russia. But perhaps right now “Dovbush” will be more appropriate. After all, this is not just a snapshot of Ukrainian history, but also clear proof that modern Ukrainian culture is capable of shining, entertaining and surprising.
“Dovbush” respects your time and taste, so for two hours it gives you the feeling of a really good movie. It is not devoid of Ukrainian identity, but at the same time it neatly dilutes it with Western cinema techniques. You don’t want to tear yourself away from the result – and that already says something.