Friday, August 17, 2007


Tuesday, I saw yet another Soviet post-war movie: the Cranes are Flying (Летят журавли, 1957),* another from the moviemaking period, referred to as the "thaw", which flourished after the death of Stalin and his cult of personality. This spectacular vision of war is mostly viewed from home, dealing with the hardships endured by those who never become soldiers. Boris and Veronika meet in the city to frolic clandestinely together, never once realizing that WWII is about to cut their courtship short. Their love is depicted wittily: a nimble and attractive couple darting around the austerity of downtown Moscow. Soon they are also darting around the huge metal barricades placed in the city streets. Veronika thinks the future is secure, teasing Boris about her upcoming birthday, their wedding plans, their next rendezvous--but Boris fails to mention he's volunteered for the military. He ships out on Veronika's birthday. Contrasting with the kind of film that lionizes similar patriotic fervor, Boris' family just gets mad at him, looking with pity on his secret girlfriend. All but a handful of the movie's tragic minutes remain at home with Veronika, who must endure a different hell of war. Her family is killed in an air strike that destroys her home. She is taken in by Boris' family, but then pressed into unwanted marriage with her lover's brother, prompting the contempt of Boris' parents and sister. She must evacuate to the coldest place on earth; she must nearly starve. This amazing tragedy features cleverly impressionist camerawork and unexpected performances in all the leads. Outdoor camerawork captures a document of a Russia without romance or condemnation. Scenes of fervid crowds, parading tanks, and the dynamic innards of a blitzed building are so enduringly epic and thrillingly executed that the movie blossoms into breathtaking spectacle. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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