Dersu Uzala Sequel, the Hunter

Dersu Uzala Sequel, The Hunter

Dersu Uzala sequel, the Soviet film by  Akira Kurosawa from the 1970s.

READ THE SCRIPT –> Dersu Uzala, the Hunter

Screenplay by Alan Nafzger (copyright 2013)

Dersu Uzala is an older Nanai man who lives in the Moscow townhouse of an old, wealthy retired Soviet politician. It seems that Dersu saved his life once and now the politician has opened his home to Dersu in his old age.  Dersu seems simple-minded and has lived hunting in Eastern Russia his entire life. Other than hunting, his knowledge is derived entirely from what he sees in the people around him. When his benefactor dies in 2013, Dersu is forced to leave and discovers the outside world for the first time.

Dersu has been very smart in the forest, but could be easily be considered mentally deficient in the modern Moscow. He goes to the park and gathers nuts from under the trees. He might possibly become homeless.

Dersu is a slow speaking and slow moving older adult who has grown up without much contact with the modern world. His one true skill was as a hunter. His one great passion is talking to people he meets. He has been lonesome in the forest most of his life. But now in Moscow there are many people to befriend.

Dersu wanders aimlessly, wearing the former general’s expensive dress suits. Dersu passes by a camera shop and sees himself captured on a big screen TV in the shop window. Entranced, he steps backward off the sidewalk and is struck by a chauffeured car owned by Yuri Solomin, an elderly business mogul. Top Secret papers from 30 years go flying from the brief case. Dersu’s wrist is injured. In the back seat of the car sits Solomin’s wife Svetlana.

Svetlana brings Dersu to their home to recover. Drinking alcohol for the first time in the car ride home, Dersu coughs as he tells Svetlana his name. Svetlana mishears “Dersu the Hunter” as “Dersu Hunter”. Judging from Dersu’s appearance and manners, Solomin assumes that Dersu is an upper class, highly educated businessman.

Svetlana and Yuri try to show Dersu around the mansion, showing him paintings and material things, but always Dersu responds by asking personal questions about their health, diet and family.  He could careless about anything material and this frees him to think about friendships.

Dersu’s style and seemingly insightful ways embody the qualities Solomin admires. Dersu’s simplistic utterances about nature are interpreted as allegorical statements about business and the state of the economy. “It is winter in the forest.”

Dersu focuses his attention on whoever is in his immediate proximity; he cares about only things in his presence, and from this he gets a skewed view of reality. The forest has been so thick he never really thought about what he couldn’t see.

Solomin has a property manager working for him who loves to shot the squirrels on the estate. Solomin is worth billions but his servants are worried about a few dollars worth of nuts. They eat the nuts and must be killed. Dersu puts an end to this practice when he finds out the dead squirrels are not being eaten but thrown in the trash. Dersu teaches the estate manager to live trap the squirrels and remove them from the property. Dersu’s morality comes from nature.

The state of affairs in Russia are problematic and unstable. A new president is needed. Unemployment is approaching catastrophic proportions, unprecedented in the country; some of the largest and finest companies in our country have collapsed. There is an unpopular foreign war.  The President’s sexual impotence with his mistress is representative of his impotence as leader of the country; and so forth.

Solomin is a confidant and adviser of Russian President Alexander Grishin, whom he introduces to “Dersu”. The president interprets Dersu’s remarks about how the forest changes with the seasons as economic and political advice.

Dersu says to the president that, You aren’t so much of a bear and tall as people had told me.” The president fashioned himself on TV as a bear, and responded, “Well you aren’t so tall yourself.” Dersu said, “We are both badgers then.” And the president thought and smiled a bit… this might be his new TV image – a badger. Politicians in trouble are always looking for ideas to remake themselves into a new image.

The next day President Grishin quotes Dersu and uses the badger image, and Dersu quickly rises to national public prominence. He becomes a media celebrity with an appearance on a television talk show and soon rises to the top of Russian society. Svetlana coaches him about appearing on the television.

After living in the forest for his entire life, Dersu accepts any situation he finds himself in; he adapts himself to the environment. Being a celebrity is easy for him. I’m not certain that he knows his image is going out to all the Russias. He hasn’t seen very many TVs before; so he isn’t nervous.

When asked how negotiations are going, “There aren’t any negotiations in nature. There is only winners and losers.”

“I have seen guns and I have seen axes,” said Dersu to the media. “I know that both are bad for the forest.” The reporters helps the public to understand this as meaning too much military spending and too much destruction of the old Russia isn’t good. Dersu is said to be a “peace candidate” and “opposed to western style urbanization”. He is interpreted as being opposed to demolition to build skyscrapers. This part of the film largely is a spoof on the media who are always trying to define and speak for the candidate, rather than simply letting the candidate speak for himself. Why must the media explain everything as if the Russian people are deaf?

Dersu has the uncanny ability of reducing complex matters to the simplest of human terms. In one television appearance, Dersu is asked what he brings to the (political) table… and he literally takes from his pocket, “a bear tooth, a lynx claw and a fern leaf.” Which the audience immediately understands… but the reporter is dense wants to have an explanation. Dersu explains, “the bear is very protective of her cubs, the lynx is very quick, and if you gather many fern leaves it makes for a soft place to lay your head.” Dersu is speaking of his experience in the forests of Russia but the people see it is an analogy that he, as the next Russian president, would take better care of them.

Dersu tells journalist, “Every Russian has the basic desire for food, shelter, and the feeling of self-worth they receive from taking care of the forest.”

Public opinion polls start to reflect just how much his “simple and old variety of wisdom” resonates with the Russian public. The Russians seem poised to elect the candidate closes to nature. The people are in this mood.

President Grishin is concerned about his standing with the Russian public. Dersu remains very mysterious, as the FSB men are able to learn almost nothing about his background. The long serving president has always destroyed his opponents with investigations. President Grishin begins to fear Dersu and begins to investigate his past… which he doesn’t have one to defame. No dirt can be found to ruin Dersu. When the president creates lies about Dersu; the Russian people laugh at the desperation of the sad president.

Yuri Solomin, dying of cancer, encourages Svetlana to become close to Dersu. Before he dies, Solomin makes Dersu his heir apparent and suddenly a possible presidental candidate.

Only one character in these power circles, Solomin ‘s doctor, figures out who “Dersu” really is, but doesn’t reveal it to others because he realizes that Dersu is not being deceptive, but is unknowingly mirroring the needs and wants of everyone around him. There are only a limited number of sources the doctor can fully investigate to find out Chance’s background before he comes to the realization that Dersu truly is who he claims to be, a simple hunter.

In the film, others change but Dersu remains the same. The more Dersu becomes entrenched in the Moscow political and social scene, the more he becomes accepted as a powerful political figure; Svetlana’s nervous nature becomes transformed into a loving and calm Russia wife after listening to Dersu.

Dersu, through all this, never really changes save for his growing friendship with Solomin and new love for Svetlana. What is endearing is Dersu’s innocence that gives him audience appeal.

Dersu always tells the truth. It is this very straightforwardness that catches others off-guard, especially in a Moscow politics where certain falsehoods (white lies, instances of tactfulness) are accepted.

In one interview with the press, the media ask him if elected President of Russia how long would he be in office. Dersu’s answer is that, “The old bear has only three or four winters left in him,”  which the Russian public takes for meaning only ONE term. The Russian public loves Dersu … primarily, because he wants only one term and secondly, because he is uncomplicated and tells the truth (unlike the other politicians). Dersu is almost like a monk in voice and manner.

An endearing thing about Derus is that he doesn’t talk about things that he doesn’t know about. If asked a political question he simply talks about the Russian forest. And people who are listening understand that he is talking about modern politics.

Yuri Solomin is at peace when he dies, knowing Derus and Svetlana will be together and his associates will put Derus in the White House; The doctor is satisfied that Derus loves his old friend, Svetlana; men of influence are satisfied that Derus, the man who has no past to attack, will win election and make a good president.

At Solomin’s funeral, while the president delivers a speech, members of the board of Solomin’s companies (the oligarchs who run Russia) hold a whispered discussion over potential replacements for the President in the next term. In an attempt to find strong leaders for the country, men of influence discount many potential candidates because of their controversial past.  As Solomin’s coffin is about to be interred in the family mausoleum, they unanimously agree on “Dersu Hunter”. The key seems to be that Dersu has no past. Dersu must not have a past that would reflect negatively on the chances of unseating the president.

The American Ambassador gives Dersu an expensive watch.  He envisions a friendship with Dersu will help to keep peace between the U.S. and Russia.

Oblivious to all the politics, Dersu leaves the funeral in the middle of the president’s speech and wanders through Solomin’s wintry estate and out onto the sidewalk. Leaving early is a signal that he is not one to be controlled.  Leaving in the middle of the President’s speech is a signal that he will run against the president. A few reporters leave the Russian president and follow also with their cameras. Svetlana waits for the funeral to end and then runs to follow.

In this film, Dersu evolves from a hunter to a presidential candidate; Svetlana becomes a calm Russian women again; because of his confidence in Dersu, Yuri Solomin has become comfortable with the reality of his death.

Leaving the funeral early is the intellectual climax of the movie.  Dersu will not be forced to obey the world’s laws until he realizes he is defying them. He doesn’t know about the rules of the society, only nature.

Dersu, not aware of the media following him out onto the sidewalk, does many charitable things. He takes his coat off for someone. He carries the groceries of an old grandmother.

Dersu feeds a poor starving puppy on the street.

Dersu gives the expensive watch to a home for orphans and street children.

Everywhere in the movie Dersu has gone he keeps people’s pens. I’m not sure he can write but he has a large collection of pens in his pocket.  He straightens out a homeless person by teaching him how to make a snare, with a pen as bait. And the homeless person suddenly becomes a capitalist. Dersu gives him all the pens to sell on the sidewalk.

Dersu walks into a church and attends the funeral of someone with almost no friends or family. By then Svetlana has caught up to him and they are side-by-side in the church. There is a slight (barely noticeable) halo over his head.

THE END of the Dersu Uzala sequel


Dersu Uzala sequel LINKS

Dersu Uzala Sequel
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