The film is an adaptation of the homonymous tragedy by Alexander Pushkin. Bondarchuk follows the text of the play fairly accurately. Once again, the audience is fascinated by historical interiors and costumes that convey the spirit of the era. But the most striking thing about the film is something else.
It's important to be reminded that the tragedy tells about Boris Godunov who just became a tsar and about the monk Grigory Otrepyev who declared himself tsarevich Dmitry, the survived son of Ivan the Terrible. Together with the Polish military forces, he moved to Moscow to overthrow Godunov and take the throne.
While watching the film, it seems that the angle is deliberately shifted to Boris himself. We hear his painful monologues, see his mad face and his eyes full of horror. It seems like he is torn between conscience and fear of an impending threat. Actually, the whole film is imbued with a sense of approaching danger. Disturbing music sounds already during the coronation of Boris and sets the rhythm of the entire story. Even Boris's entourage is alarmed, as if anticipating the upcoming changes.
The last scene of the film, which accurately conveys the end of Pushkin's tragedy, is significant. After the people are informed about the poisoning of Godunov's wife and son, they keep silence. The meaning and the mood of Pushkin's tragedy are expressed with greatness in these devastated looks. A mixture of tragedy, conscientiousness, resignation to fate and fear of the future is reflected in people's faces. The logical conclusion of this scene is a sound of a fallen bell echoing in the head.
Perhaps, this film is Bondarchuk's most profound, meaningful and metaphorical work. And the battle scene in the middle of the film doesn't even matter so much as in other movies. It is symbolic that it was the last work that Bondarchuk managed to see.