In 1912, Grigory (Glebov) lives in a Cossack village in the Don river region, and finds himself besotted with a married woman named Aksynia (Bystritskaya). When their affair comes to light, Grigory’s family forces him to marry Natalya (Kirienko). Grigory then leaves to fight in the First World War and wins four medals. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Grigory becomes an officer in the White Army fighting the Communists. His thwarted love for Aksynia continues as the complex history of the Cossacks plays out against the backdrop of Russia’s Civil War.
Gerasimov’s epic telling of a decade of Cossack history is adapted from the novel “Tikhny Don” by Mikhail Sholokhov, which was serialized between 1928 and 1940. It won the Stalin Prize in 1941 for its lyrical writing and even-handed portrayal of Russia’s shifting political landscape. Using hundreds of extras (many of them actual Cossacks) and shooting in scenic river locations, Gerasimov unerringly captures daily peasant life, the chaos of war and divided loyalties. The romance at the heart of the film is also movingly portrayed. This colorful, prize-winning saga is must viewing for fans of world cinema.