This commencement of armed hostilities between the two warring nations sees many of the town's sons head out to join the fight at the front line while the village itself plays host to German PoWs. The film breaches topics such as wide ranging as life at the front, the difficulties facing returning veterans, the Russian Revolution and kinship across the national divide - several years before Jean Renoir's magnificent La Grande Illusion (1937).
Barnet's first two sound films, both of these aforementioned features are hugely ambitious efforts in terms of innovations in camera movement and show fantastic experimental sound design. More than illustrating the reason that the director is placed amongst the other great Russian filmmakers, there are some truly remarkable sequences. Outskirts is aurally interesting with sounds often being misappropriated such as the village being plagued by bullets - only to be revealed as machinery or a children's toy. Meanwhile, a confrontation aboard a storm-plagued ship in By the Bluest of Seas allows the camera to rock violently from side to side creating the effect of the waves.
Clearly, there is much to admire in Barnet's work, so it is a true shame that these films are not quite as emotionally engaging as they are technically fascinating. Outskirts is a definite precursor to La Grande Illusion, but the latter delivers a far more potent and affecting message. By the Bluest of Seas, conversely, is a light-hearted affair which never particularly attempts to create compelling characters. These are two releases that will be a great interest to enthusiasts, but are perhaps more impressive than enjoyable.