Last Year’s Snow Was Falling (Падал прошлогодний снег / Padal proshlogodniy sneg) is a Soviet animation film directed by Aleksandr Tatarskiy in 1983. It’s created in the stop motion claymation style.
The film is a surreal take on traditional Russian fairy tales. In it, a drunkard with a speech impediment experiences absurd misadventures while trying to find a New Year’s tree last minute.
Watching the film has become a Russian holiday tradition. It is broadcast across the country every New Year’s Eve.
The main character of the movie is a lazy, greedy fool. He also has a speech impediment which leaves him unable to pronounce certain letters and numbers.
The film is split into three parts. In the first part, our foolish protagonist goes to the forest to collect a New Year’s tree for his wife. However, his imagination runs wild and the forest entangles him with magical hallucinations. As a result, he gets lost and returns home empty-handed.
In the second part of the film, our fool once again sets out to the forest, as his wife will not let him return home without a tree. This time, he comes across a home in the middle of the forest. However, it’s a magical house with the legs of a chicken. The implication is that it belongs to a witch, or Баба-Яга / Baba Yaga, per Slavic folklore. After escaping the house, our fool returns home empty-handed once again. And again, his wife berates him.
At the end of the film, we learn that the main character was finally able to get a tree. However, since by that time it was already spring, he took the tree back to the forest.
By the end of the film, you can’t help but feel bad for the foolish main character. And, actually, by the end, you stop thinking of him as a fool. More than anything, he seems like daydreamer who can’t control his imagination.
As such, reading underneath the surface of Last Year’s Snow was Falling’s plot, it would appear that this is really a story about failure and forgiveness.
The main character is clearly completely devoted to his wife. However, he is not able to please her. After all, it takes him three attempts to accomplish a seemingly simple task – collecting a tree from the forest.
There is something noble in his failure. Clearly, he struggles to satisfy his wife. And yet, again and again he returns to the forest to fulfill her wishes. As viewers, we are left with a series of tragic questions.
Why can’t the husband accomplish a seemingly simple task for his wife? Why can’t the wife forgive her husband? Does this task matter?
The film doesn’t provide answers, but it does remind viewers during the winter holidays that it is possible to love imperfectly.