Alone in the Past

2017, Psychology  -   24 Comments
Storyline

Pavel Sapozhnikov is a typical 24-year old from Russia. His life is filled with all the modern conveniences, including mobile phones, digital organizers, sophisticated technologies and constant stimuli. But something is missing. He decides to embark on an eight-month social experiment that will plant him on an isolated farm under grossly antiquated 10th century conditions. Will he be able to summon the skills and willpower he needs to survive this formidable test, and what will he learn about himself along the way? Alone in the Past is the enthralling document of his journey.

This unique endeavor is the brainchild Project Hero, an organization devoted to studying the links between history and social psychology. In constructing the conditions of this experiment, they've created a reality far removed from our own. For 240 days, Pavel is forced to exist in the same conditions as his Russian ancestors from centuries ago. His homestead consists of a well, a rustic toilet, a stable of goats and hens, and a bare bones cabin devoid of heating and air. He must hunt and fish for his food, and he's armed only with the tools and weapons of the period. He must unearth a spirit of self-reliance that he has never before known in order to survive a harsh winter season. Cut off from all communications with the outside world, he will only be permitted an escape if he suffers a life-threatening injury such as a broken limb or severe infection.

Once a month, he is able to record a progress report for the study's organizers. These confessional vignettes are raw and revelatory. We observe the psychological impacts of boredom, restlessness, loneliness and the aggressions brought on by moments of intense despair and defeat. Under these conditions, seemingly simple activities like starting a fire, insulating shoes from the elements, and finding proper nourishment become Herculean tasks. It is not uncommon to experience cabin fever, hallucinations and extreme fatigue.

Alone in the Past exposes the nearly insurmountable challenges that our ancestors faced on a daily basis, and sheds light on which of their strengths we may still harbor deep within us.

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Ratings: 6.37/10from 43 users.

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24 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Judith Smalley

    This documentary does not appear accurate to me as he would start losing weight immediately if he was living on chicken eggs, goat milk and some field crops.

  2. urban dweller

    He didn't loose much weight?

  3. Fred D Hollands

    I wonder how well I would do on a project of living alone such as you did? I would like to think I would do okay, but I am too old to try. I agree with your idea that man didn't venture very far. They didn't have reason to and as such would not have known how big the world was. Yet because of what they did know, they didn't feel at a loss. When did people start looking at the sky to understand stars and planets?
    All these thoughts from today about yesteryear. Thank you for sharing your time alone with us after your adventure. Fred

  4. DustUp

    In such an experiment, the subject has no motivation for the long term, only to get through the time sentence imposed. Like those in prison, some take advantage of their time as best they can while others do the bare minimum to get by. Ancestrally, the people would look to gain advantage where they could. Make items or devices that would save labor, protect or improve what they had, etc.

    From the comments, no reason for me to watch. After seeing another docu on this website of the old lady living in "outback" Siberia, the last survivor of her family whose parents, along with her siblings, moved to a remote location to avoid possible political persecution; one sees and hears how she lived and survived... Not part of some experiment. All alone for years until some retired and leg injured fellow moved into her vicinity which she doesn't really trust due to some of his actions. She had no desire to move back to the city but didn't mind talking to the film makers. Can't say as I blame her.

    As for @ Richard Stafursky, has the exact wrong mentality which results in ever expanding wildlife destruction zones, cramming people causing the mentally disturbed, lack of respect, war, etc.

    If people were spread out they would not get so angry or resentful of everyone in their way in the crowds. The animals could travels as they desire without huge ever expanding cities blocking their path.

    Why do some people become disturbed by isolation? What does another person do for you that makes life worth living, especially if that person is a self centered jerk? Many people are, so wouldn't it be a relief to enjoy all the nature without the irritations of the greedy manipulators, hate mongers, thugs, parasitic lawyers, and generally evil weasels? Ideally it would be a blessing to have a thoughtful considerate companion, however, isolation seems better than the many who are the opposite.

  5. Shar

    Very good report. I thought a lot about our ancestors. Glad I live now and not then. I do like not to be bored. Thanks

  6. Jeff

    I found this documentary interesting and it is worth a gander for anyone who contemplates what life would be like living in a more primitive situation. Each person is different and how a person handles adversity is unique to the individual. Kudos to Pavel for taking part in this project and speaking honestly about his thoughts and experiences.

  7. RICHARD H STAFURSKY

    This is the old "Back to the Pleistocene" so we can kill all the megafauna. He is reliving the frontier when we destroyed the other species wholesale. This is not science. This is indulging one's fantasies. A better science is to learn ways to get out of the natural landscape and let nature be. A species' forest, grassland, desert, river, mountain or sea is of, by and for, all the other native plants, animals, fungi and soil microbes which are the true occupants of those places. To advance and survive for both people and nature we must get out. Getting out of the natural world can be romantic. The VROC (vegan raisin oatmeal cookie model for conservation of nature where the cities are the raisins and vegan is a proven technology to get us there) is a proven solution. There is no win-win solution. In the US land trusts can take the lead and return the forests complete. Most do not , but instead, log or allow other uses to fund their organizations. That is not complete return of the forest. Species Forest, Inc. non-profit does returns the forest for the other species complete.

  8. Ray

    I've seen other recreations of the past where people stepped back in time to test their abilities to endure, and none of them turned into psycho animal killers. Goats are known to be very social animals and when I imagine the scene of him kicking and disecting the goat simply because it came into the house, perhaps to seek out his company, all I can say is that if he were in the U.S. there would be petitions circulating to get him convicted on animal cruetly charges. Russian women beware. Is this a man you would want as a husband or to father your children? I'd think not. This man and his video is hideous.

  9. Paul Hodge

    I would like to suggest that when Pavel Sapozhnikov speaks in his native language the audio level of his voice is reduced (still can be be heard in the background and gradually fades out) and you have a voice-over in English. It would also be an idea to have artist sketches of what it was like back in time based on archeological findings. The aim of the documentary is noteworthy and I would hope a second attempt is made and improved on. Your critics should try and live on their own for 6-7 months to better appreciate this documentary. In reality this man would have had distant neighbors during the 10th century. Maybe next time you could have two men in separate dwellings who met up now and again. This would give insight into the social needs of being human - having such interaction is as important as having food and shelter. All-in-all a good first attempt. I could suggest that the subject is given a before and after psychological assessment to obtain a level of scientific research that could be a benefit to understanding human behaviour and coping strategies when under stress of being so isolated having to face a very challenging environment.

    1. Hilary

      As soon as he said he kicked an animal and broke its ribs I stopped watching...

  10. Paul Hodge

    I would like to suggest that when Pavel Sapozhnikov speaks in his native language the audio level of his voice is reduced (still can be be heard in the background and gradually fades out) and you have a voice-over in English. It would also be an idea to have artist sketches of what it was like back in time based on archeological findings. The aim of the documentary is noteworthy and I would hope a second attempt is made and improved on. Your critics should try and live on their own for 6-7 months to better appreciate this documentary. In reality this man would have had distant neighbors during the 10th century. Maybe next time you could have two men in separate dwellings who met up now and again. This would give insight into the social needs of being human - having such interaction is as important as having food and shelter. All-in-all a good first attempt.

  11. joe nobull

    good show and very brave man to do this experiment for all of us to watch and think about

  12. Jackal

    I might add he didn't even have the predator animals we had on the farm -- wild dogs, wolves, coyotes, weasels, badgers :)

  13. Jackal

    Unrealistic right from the start. They sent him in there with a full larder – hens, goats, domesticated dog and cat for company, food (apples, grain, well sharpened axes, etc.). If he had had to go in there and start from scratch, he really would have gone bonkers. As it was, it was dumb to give this kind of a chance at what would really have been a social experiment, to someone who was a city slicker, and would not prove to be a good subject for such an experiment. He was simply not suitable for being a hermit. You must have a certain degree of independence. Having been brought up on a farm in the dirty 30’s, I know how difficult it was to do without, even to the extent of not having the footwear for our Alberta winters, or the clothing. But that was living in a family situation. Some neighbours were hermits of sorts, but even they would socialize on occasion, and knew they were not alone in case they needed help. This situation was a little extreme in so far as loneliness was concerned, but he had a big head start with the animals.

  14. Leon

    Dear John and Dan, the fact that neither of you bothered to mention the man's name shows you to be both trolls and intellectually inferior not to mention crude and uncouth... take a break boys get yourselves some edification and make a real statement for a change

  15. corynski

    Must be the voice of youth above, they seem to have missed the message. No matter, I found many insights and found my mind meandering as I considered his message, wondering too just how I would react. Obviously it was a forced and limited situation, yet....... it makes me think of the thousands of years humans have existed as small hunting and gathering groups..... what would prompt original thinking, a new idea, a new way of doing something. We really know so little of our ancestors daily lives, their hopes and fears..... would a simple scratch cause one to lose a limb, or could a simple wrong step end in a plunge into a canyon. No laws and no one watching or caring what you did...... hmmmm.........

  16. Pat

    It would have been hard. Unless one has tried it, you just don't know how hard. The only question I had is, why did he go alone? Was it normal for people to live alone at that time? No... so they still don't know what it was really like. Interesting, anyway!

  17. Bob Rowan

    This concept could have been really interesting; however, our subject more or less sat around most of the time and accomplished or learned little. Translation was poor so it was difficult following his thoughts. Too bad it was so boring.

  18. Rod

    The documented kills are one goat and one (impaled) rat.
    Did he also kill the dog?
    41:49 " If someone was waiting for the dog which I mentioned at the beginning"
    41:56 " I have to disappoint you, the dog was on last week. Today is just an apple jam"
    Then, towards the end of the doc, we see a large cat walking around. For the cat to walk around undisturbed in such a nonchalant manner, the dog has to be away.Clearly the dog is not there anymore. The question being : Did he suffer the same fate as the rat and the goat?
    The subject begins by stating that goats are his special friends. Short after, he badly kicks a goat (fracturing his ribs) then cuts his head off with an ax, finally impaling the goats head.
    The rat just appears impaled on a brief shot and we are spared the details of its death.
    I am sure one will go pretty crazy on such an experiment, but becoming an animal psycho killer? Pretty sick and dark.

  19. Lawrence

    Step up Dan and leave your comfortable life before criticizing the guy who actually did it.

  20. Dan

    This guy tries to survive in what would be considered a mansion for the time period and he barely makes due and nothing to show for almost a year of being there.

  21. bill calhoun

    How many cameramen were there with him ? just sayin

    1. Back in the day

      Yeah was thinking the same thing. He clearly isn't totally alone, unless the cameras are mounted on drones.

  22. John

    kicking goats, what a big brave survival man. This dude is just another meatheaded crude and violent peasant. Perfect for this video.