Before starting work on the film "Sunflowers" in 1969, the producer warned Sophie that the shooting would take place in Siberia. Having learned from experts that this is Russian Siberia - this is a very cold place, the actress took as many as five fur coats on the road. It turned out that the shooting took place really in the Russian outback, but the Tver region in the summer is far from such a snow-covered place as foreigners seem to think. The resulting Italian-French-Soviet melodrama was very popular in Europe, but not so well known in our country. It turned out that the story about the fate of a simple Italian woman touched upon several sick topics.
The Italian melodrama, almost entirely filmed in the USSR, tells a touching story about a woman named Giovanna. She comes to Russia to find her husband Antonio, who disappeared somewhere in these places in 1942. During the war, a young man (by the way, he was played by Marcello Mastroianni), was forcibly taken into the army of Mussolini and sent to the front. After a while, his young wife received a notification that Antonio was missing. A few years after the end of the war, Giovanna decides to find her beloved and for this she comes to the Soviet Union.
Then the plot develops in accordance with the laws of the genre: Giovanna finds Antonio, but it turns out that he has deep amnesia and is married to a Russian woman Masha, who left him after being wounded. Thus, a love triangle arises between Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and Lyudmila Savelyeva.
For credibility, director Vittorio de Sica decided to shoot a movie in real historical places, that is, in a remote Russian province. As a result, a group of several dozen Italians worked in the USSR for almost six months. In addition to star actors, it included make-up artists, costume designers, cooks and even security. The shooting took place in several places, including in really distant villages of the Poltava and Tver regions.
The location found for filming in the Tver region turned out to be very convenient: picturesque countryside and authentic Russian houses were adjacent to an extremely convenient sanatorium for the party elite, in which the film crew was able to settle. Sophia Loren was pleased with the luxurious apartments, which previously housed only very high-ranking Soviet officials, but one drawback of this location soon became clear.
The sanatorium continued to work as usual and received its high-profile clients, mostly from Moscow. Of course, all the bigwigs did not miss the opportunity to communicate in an informal setting with the star of world cinema. As a result, the star complained that she could not rest after the difficult filming, but she could not do anything with the Russian tradition. Later, the actress said that after that sanatorium she took home three huge trunks with a variety of gifts: souvenirs from ceramics and glass from Gzhel, Dulevo porcelain, Khokhloma, boxes from Palekh. There were also more expensive gifts. One minister, for example, misinterpreting the number of Sophie's fur coats, which she brought to the "cold lands", presented her with another one made of precious Siberian sables.
Despite such a warm welcome, the film, as often happened, did not like the officials from the Ministry of Culture. It was expected that the star Italians would shoot the usual melodrama in our open spaces, but it turned out that the film touches on one delicate and rather painful topic - the question of former prisoners of war and soldiers of European states who died during the war on our territory.
In Italy, precisely because of this, the picture was very relevant: in the 60s, many people who lost their relatives during the war continued to believe that their loved ones did not die, but still live somewhere in the snow-covered expanses of Siberia and cannot return home. since they are forbidden to report themselves, the USSR seemed to the rest of the world to be a mysterious and very distant country.
The premiere of the picture in Moscow was supposed to take place on March 8, 1970, this event was eagerly awaited, but at the last moment everything was upset. After watching the film before the screening, the commission demanded that the episode with the cemetery of Italian soldiers in Ukraine be removed from it. Chief producer Carlo Ponti responded to Soviet officials:
Soviet viewers that year never saw the picture, which was almost entirely filmed in Russia. Its premiere took place in Rome, and that the film was a stunning success, Mosfilm learned only thanks to a kind telegram from Italian colleagues. A year later, the premiere in Russia nevertheless took place, but the film did not receive much fame in our country.
See further: 29 retro photographs of famous foreign stars who visited the USSR
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