The Red Tent (film)

The Red Tent (Russian: Красная палатка, translit. Krasnaya palatka; Italian: La tenda rossa; Spanish: La tienda roja) is a joint Soviet/Italian 1969 film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.

The Red Tent
1969 krasnaya palatka.jpg
Soviet billboard theatrical poster of the film
Directed byMikhail Kalatozov
Written byYuri Nagibin
Richard L. Adams
Ennio De Concini
Robert Bolt (uncredited)
Produced byFranco Cristaldi
Victor Freilich
CinematographyLeonid Kalashnikov
Edited byJohn Shirley
Peter Zinner
Music byEnnio Morricone (international version)
Aleksandr Zatsepin
Distributed byMosfilm
Vides Cinematografica
Empresa Hispanoamericana de Video
Paramount Home Video
Paramount Pictures
Release date
1969 (USSR)
  • December 23, 1969 (1969-12-23)
  • July 29, 1971 (1971-07-29)
Running time
158 min (Russian version)
121 min (International version)
CountryUSSR / Italy
LanguageRussian / Italian / English

The film is based on the story of the 1928 mission to rescue Umberto Nobile and the other survivors of the crash of the airship Italia. It features Sean Connery as Roald Amundsen and Peter Finch as Nobile. The script was adapted by Yuri Nagibin and Mikhail Kalatozov from Nagibin's novel of the same title. Nagibin couldn't complete the script due to a series of conflicts with the producer, who insisted on expanding the role of Claudia Cardinale,[2] and it was completed by de Concini and Bolt.[3][4][5]


The film begins in Rome many years after the expedition. Nobile has endured years of scorn for his actions during the disaster and its aftermath. He imagines his apartment turned into a court of inquiry against him, where witnesses and judges are his former crewmen – including Captain Zappi, his navigator and his meteorologist Finn Malmgren. Also arrayed against him are Valeria, Malmgren's lover, Captain Romagna, one of the expedition's would-be rescuers, famed aviator Lundborg, professor Samoilovich, chief of the Soviet rescue mission, his pilot Boris Chukhnovsky, and Roald Amundsen, who lost his life in the search for survivors of Nobile's expedition.[6]

As they try Nobile, the events of the expedition and its failure are depicted. The expedition is successful at first, but ends in disaster. The Italia is weighed down when ice forms on it. Colliding with the ground, the airship's gondola is torn away from its keel and the envelope containing the airship's hydrogen cells; freed of the weight of the gondola, the rest of the ship floats away and out of control, taking some of Nobile's crew with it.[7]

Nobile maintains control of the surviving crew who are now marooned on arctic pack ice. Rescue efforts are made by both Italy and the Soviet Union. Nobile's group is first found by Lundborg, a Swedish pilot who lands on the ice. The aviator insists he can only take Nobile. Reluctantly, Nobile agrees, sure he can best assist the rescue once he returns from the ice. These efforts are blocked: reaching the Italian ship Città di Milano he finds that his superiors have stripped him of command for apparently abandoning his crew, and he is ordered confined to his room and have no role in the rescue. Desperate, Nobile contacts the Krassin, a Soviet icebreaker also searching for the survivors. Nobile implores Samoilovich, the Krassin's captain, for help in rescuing the survivors. Unfortunately, the Krassin has sustained damage. Also, because the ice pack has drifted, Nobile cannot give the Krassin an accurate position for the survivors. Some of Nobile's crew – Zappi, Mariano and Malmgren – leave the camp in a group hoping to reach Kings Bay.

Amundsen joins the rescue effort as well, but disappears, becoming another victim of Nobile's expedition. In the film, Amundsen explains that he died soon after his plane found the remains of the Italia, spotting what appeared to be survivors. The pilot, ordered to land, crashed and was killed. Amundsen survived the crash, but was nonetheless doomed, finding nothing to build shelter or fire with, no supplies and no hope of rescue. The men who had appeared to be survivors when seen from the air were already long dead.

Back at camp, the ice begins to break apart, and the survivors there barely escape from the gondola before it sinks. Alone on the ice, Nobile's survivors find themselves at their bleakest point before finally spotting the Krassin on the horizon. As the ship nears for a rescue, the survivors see Zappi and Mariano waving at them from its deck. Malmgren, who had also joined Zappi, died before he could be rescued.

Pressed for a vote, Samoilovich defends Nobile's actions, noting that his rescue of the survivors was a direct result of Nobile's escape to King's Bay. Neither can he fault Nobile's apparent lack of heroism because a captain has no right to risk his own safety by individual acts of heroism. The others quickly reach a verdict of guilty, but Amundsen discounts the verdict, finding each of the accusers unfit to judge for various reasons, including indifference to others and emotional sterility, but mostly for their bitterness. The accusers file out of Nobile's apartment, Amundsen being the last. With Amundsen, Nobile reveals his feelings of guilt for leaving the men on the ice. While Nobile admits that his decision to join Lundborg was based on a number of reasons, some correct while others were wrong, his first thoughts on entering Lundborg's plane were not of rescue, but of a good hot bath. Amundsen helps Nobile find peace by reminding him that his frailty is only a sign of humanity and not guilt.



The film was made with the approval of Nobile. Nobile said of Finch's casting, "I don't know if he looks like me. But if he reads my books and gets into the spirit of the thing, I'm sure he'll give a splendid interpretation."[1]

Russia provided 60% of the budget, Italy (via producer Franco Castaldi) 40%.[1]

Filming went for 62 weeks. It included location work in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Baltic Sea and the Svalbard Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, and studio work in Moscow and Rome. Shooting was completed on 12 April 1969. Paramount picked up the US distribution rights. Robert Bolt did the final draft of the script.[8]

The international version of the film features original music by Ennio Morricone, with Dino Asciolla as violin solo and Bruno Nicolai as the conductor.


Critical responseEdit

The Red Tent has an approval rating of 88% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 8 reviews, and an average rating of 7.64/10.[9]


The film was nominated for 1972 Golden Globe Award for Best English-Language Foreign Film.


  1. ^ a b c East-West Break Ice on Film: Collaboration of Cinema Artists Erecting Controversial 'Red Tent' By Charles Foley. The Washington Post, Times Herald 26 May 1968: K1.
  2. ^ "Юрий Нагибин в библиотеке А.Белоусенко". Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  3. ^ "Красная палатка. 1. Два фильма". Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  4. ^ "Nagibin, Yu.M. - - Encyclopedia of Soviet Authors". Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  5. ^ "Краткая биография Юрий Нагибин". 1994-06-17. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  6. ^ QRZ
  7. ^ Сергей Нехамкин. Бог спас их руками безбожников
  8. ^ Albee to Adapt French Novel to Film By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 24 Apr 1969: 38.
  9. ^

External linksEdit