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Dersu Uzala
(Дерсу Узала)

original film poster
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced by Yoichi Matsue
Nikolai Sizov
Written by Vladimir Arsenyev (book)
Akira Kurosawa
Yuri Nagibin
Starring Maxim Munzuk
Yury Solomin
Music by Isaak Shvarts
Cinematography Asakazu Nakai
Yuri Gantman
Fyodor Dobronravov
Editing by Lyudmila Feiginova
Distributed by Mosfilm
Release date(s) Soviet Union July, 1975
Japan August 2, 1975
United States October 5, 1976
Running time 141 mins.
Country  Japan
Soviet Union
Language Russian
Budget $4,000,000 (est.)

Dersu Uzala (Russian: Дерсу Узала, Japanese: デルス·ウザーラ; alternate U.S. title: Dersu Uzala: The Hunter) is a 1975 joint Soviet-Japanese film production directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film won the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival and the 1975 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film is based on the 1923 memoir Dersu Uzala by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, about his exploration of the Sikhote-Alin region of Siberia over the course of multiple expeditions in the early 20th century.

The film is almost entirely shot outdoors in the ruggedly beautiful Siberian wilderness. As with most of Kurosawa's work, each frame is carefully composed to form a dramatic picture. The film explores the theme of a native of the forests who is fully integrated into his environment, leading a style of life that will inevitably be destroyed by the advance of civilization. It is also about the growth of respect and deep friendship between two men of profoundly different backgrounds, and about the difficulty of coping with the loss of strength and ability that comes with old age.

The film sold 20.4 million tickets in the Soviet Union and made $1.2 million in the US and Canada.[1]



The film opens to a forest that is being cleared for development, and Arseniev searching for an unmarked grave. The film then flashes back to Arseniev's surveying expedition to the region in 1902, before the village was built. A topographic expedition troop, led by Captain Arseniev (Yuri Solomin), encounters a nomadic, aboriginal Nanai tribesman named Dersu Uzala (Maxim Munzuk) who agrees to guide them through the harsh frontier. Initially viewed as an uneducated, eccentric old man, Dersu earns the respect of the soldiers through his great intelligence, accurate instincts, keen powers of observation, and deep compassion. He repairs an abandoned hut and leaves provisions in a birch container so that a future traveler would survive in the wilderness. He deduces the identities and situations of people by analyzing tracks and articles left behind.

Dersu Uzala saves the lives of Captain Arseniev and one of his men not once, but twice. First, when a sudden blizzard overtakes Dersu and the Captain, Dersu shows Arseniev how to quickly build a straw hut for shelter using tundra grass. The two men avoid freezing to death and are discovered by the rest of their comrades when the blizzard clears. Five years later in 1907, Dersu and Captain Arseniev again find each other in the wilderness. When Dersu and Arseniev fall into swift moving currents while crossing a river in a raft, Dersu forces Arseniev to swim while the raft is close to shore then directs the party to cut a tree which can reach him before he drowns.

At the end of the expedition, he leaves the soldiers by the railroad tracks and returns to wilderness, only to encounter Arseniev again, years later, on another surveying expedition. However, Dersu's eyesight and other senses begin to fade with age. Dersu is no longer able to hunt, and the Siberian tiger stalking the old man comes very close until Dersu shoots at the predator. Captain Arseniev decides to take Dersu with him to the city of Khabarovsk. Dersu quickly discovers that he is not permitted to chop wood or to build a hut and fireplace in the city park, nor is he allowed to shoot within the city limits. The constables often bring Dersu back to the house, and one day he asks to leave the city and return to living in the hills. As a parting gift, Arseniev gives him a new rifle.

Some while later, Arseniev receives a telegram informing him that the body of a Goldi has been found, with no identification on him save Arseniev's calling card, and is requested to come identify the body. Arseniev finds that it is indeed Dersu. The officer who found Dersu speculates that someone may have killed Dersu to obtain the new rifle that Arseniev gave him.

See also


  1. ^ Zemlianukhin, Sergei; Miroslava Segida (1996) (in Russian). Domashniaia sinemateka 1918–1996 (Домашняя Синематека 1918–1996). Moscow: Duble-D. p. 118. ISBN 5-900902-05-6. 

External links

Preceded by
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Succeeded by
Black and White in Color


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