The Cranes are Flying
Is anyone else here a fan of Soviet Movies? No? Anyone?
Well! I never!
here's a review for you to enjoy anyway:
Yesterday Alex and I watched The Cranes are Flying, a Soviet film from 1957. Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, it is one of only two Soviet films to ever win the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
It is a very sad movie. Veronika, playfully known as belka (squirrel) has her life torn apart when her fiance, Boris, volunteers for the army to fight the Nazis in WWII.
When her parents are killed in a bombing, Veronika moves in with Boris' family. She waits and waits for Boris, she checks the mail every day, she calls the plant where he worked before leaving, but hears nothing.
Meanwhile, Boris' cousin, who has dodged the draft by bribing an official for a medical exemption, pursues Veronika despite her repeated requests that he leave her alone. During another bomb raid, he rapes her. After the rape, Veronika is shamed into marrying him, leading the rest of the family to think that she has betrayed Boris.
As the film progresses and war gets worse, the family is evacuated to Siberia where Veronika volunteers at the hospital where Boris' father works. The life is cold and miserable and Veronika is growing stiff and cold and miserable and everything points to the fact that Boris has died, yet she continues to wait and wait and wait for his return.
In the final scenes of the film, war is over and the troops are coming home. There is a parade and the people are filled with joy, families reuniting with their boys after the battles have been won. But amidst all this happiness, the camera pans to Veronika as she struggles through crowds, holding a huge bouquet of white flowers, looking looking looking for Boris. Even at this moment, especially at this moment, she doesn't want to believe that he's not coming home.
Finally, Veronika finds Boris' friend, Stepan, who confirms that he has died. As Veronika cries, Stepan makes a speech urging everyone to embrace the hard-won peace and rejoice, but never forget those who have died.
The last scene is so painful. You feel Veronika's desperate sorrow while everyone around her is celebrating. While there are a few other emotional moments in the film, this one is clearly the culmination.
Something a bit entertaining is that while The Cranes is really supposed to be about love and family and honor and war, it wouldn't quite be Soviet without showing Boris as an honorable factory worker, the women of the factory as supportive do-gooders and a few great speeches about loyalty to one's country...