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Ballad of a Soldier (The Criterion Collection)

Vladimir Ivashov , Zhanna Prokhorenko , Grigoriy Chukhray    Unrated   DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Ballad of a Soldier (The Criterion Collection) + The Cranes Are Flying (The Criterion Collection)
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Product Description

Product Description

Russian soldier Alyosha Skvortsov is granted a visit with his mother after he singlehandedly fends off two enemy tanks. As he journeys home, Alyosha encounters the devastation of his war-torn country, witnesses glimmers of hope among the people, and falls in love. With its poetic visual imagery, Grigori Chukhrai's Ballad of a Soldier is an unconventional meditation on the effects of war, and a milestone in Russian cinema.


Grigory Chukhraj's poetic odyssey of an accidental hero on a six-day pass is a sentimental journey through the ideals of the Soviet state in World War II. Vladimir Ivashov is the fresh-faced signalman whose trip from the Russian front to visit his white-haired mother becomes a series of detours as he stops to help the loyal comrades, fellow soldiers, and salt-of-the-earth civilians (as well as a few shirkers and scoundrels) he meets along the way. On a transport train he even falls in love with a pretty young stowaway, a feisty blond girl-next-door on her way to visit a wounded boyfriend. Delicately photographed and gently paced, this deliriously romantic road movie is undeniably Soviet in its celebration of patriotism and collectivism, but Chukhraj transcends politics with delightfully vivid characters and a deft mix of comedy, melodrama, and romance. --Sean Axmaker

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece April 17 2003
As time goes on, I keep returning to films that exquisitely portray the human condition: films like "The Bicycle Thief," "Forbidden Games," "The Official Story," "Boy," and "Ballad of a Soldier," to name a few. When I first saw "Ballad of a Soldier," I also had under my belt many of the masterpieces of the new wave films from Europe and Asia in the 50s and early 60s. This brilliant film and "The Cranes Are Flying" put another face on the Cold War for me.
Most in the West think the United States and allies "won" WWII. Nothing could be further from the truth. Germany invaded Russia on June 22, 1941, and proceeded to destroy their country and over 28 million Russian citizens and soldiers. The battles on the Eastern Front were of such breadth and scope that no comparison is possible in history. For example, in the famous 1943 battle of Kursk (remember the Russian sub?), up to 6,000 total tanks battled over a 200-mile front that resulted in a million deaths. This adventure took about 10 days. Stalingrad alone was the beginning of the end for the Germans, resulting in 160,000 dead and 500,000 taken prisoner. The savagery there was literally unspeakable and horrible, and the losses by the Russians were horrendous. Behind the Russians was the butcher Stalin, and in front of them were the Germans, yet in spite of these evils, the Russian people rose up with an incredible sense of protecting their motherland. When the war in the East was over in 1945, the Red Army had destroyed, disabled, or captured 607 German and Axis divisions; Americans and allies, from Africa to Berlin, destroyed a total of 167 enemy divisions. Their total deaths numbered around 8 million. Total American deaths in Europe numbered around 300,000.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm and Sentimental July 14 2004
This warm and sentimental film is romantic, though also accurate portrayal of WW2 Soviet Union. While surely propaganda in its own since, it has enough truth and warmth to make it a classic. The only part I found a little hard to believe was the beginning where our hero manages to knock out two Panzer Mark IVs (or are they Tiger IIs) with an anti-tank rifle! This was not a Russian version of the USA bazooka or German Panzerfaust. This weapon could only knock out lightly armored vehicles, and possibly throw a track on a tank, but knocking out two German medium tanks with this weapon was certainly far-fetched to me! It would have been better if our hero manned a Soviet 76mm anti-tank gun in a moment of crisis and got his two German tanks that way!
Failing that this is a lovely film, which shows just how hard life was in the soviet Union at that time, both for the front-line soldier and civilians as well. While propaganda it is, its not the kind to offend, and I'll wager its good honest morality would have been approved even during the Cold War era in the States! A fine classic, worth seeing for its value, and unique Soviet perspective of the Great Patriotic War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Differentially Soviet Feb. 25 2004
Though little time is spent detailing the front line, World War II is present in the forefront of every scene in "Ballada o Soldate." Why, then, are only two deaths witnessed through the course of this film: that of a Russian soldier who gives up his position and that of a beautiful woman killed by Germans? Why, one might also ask, do the characters, even those in most impoverished conditions, remain as a unit brotherly and optimistic?
This story, stripped to its bare-bones plot line, might indicate some very different feelings to someone unfamiliar with "Ballada o Soldate." Private Alyosha Skvortsov, while fighting on the front, has just endured a stroke of luck that both saves his life and destroys two enemy tanks. In reward for his accomplishments, he is given the privilege to take a six-day leave of absence to visit his mother in his hometown. After a long series of detours, he reaches home with only enough time to hug her, say some kind words, and rush back to the front. During this time he has met and fallen in love with a young and equally innocent girl. Then he is killed.
Does this sound like a happy story to you? When I first viewed this film, I anticipated one of a thousand things that would go wrong from the moment Alyosha left on his journey. The longer it took for the hammer to fall, it seemed the harder such a blow must be to such an unrealistic boy - for Alyosha is truly depicted as innocent as a child. This is a punch I was amazed to find was never dealt.
This is the difference that makes "Ballada o Soldate" an important film today. Faced with numerous gruesome depictions of war in story and in film, "War Is Hell" seems to be the popular slogan in the 21st century American mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When this Russian film was made in 1959, it was the middle of the Cold War. American audiences certainly didn't see it. If we had, it would have softened our impressions of Russians, who were always depicted as cruel monsters whose only desire was to bury America. And yet, WW2 was devastating for them as it was fought on their soil and so many died. "Ballad of a Soldier" is the story of one such soldier.
We first meet 19-year old Alyosha as he is cowering in a foxhole on the front. We can identify with his fear at the German tanks that are advancing. He runs to a machine gun and shoots at the tanks. To his surprise, he hits a tank and destroys it. He keeps shooting and manages to destroy a second tank. All of a sudden he's a hero and his commanding officer wants to give him a medal. "Please, sir" he begs. "Instead of a medal, please give me one day's leave to see my mother." The hard-hearted officer is touched, and gives the young man a six-day pass.
It would be a two-day trip each way even at the best of times. But now it is wartime. And it's a difficult journey. Along the way we meets a one-legged soldier who's reluctant to face life, a lovely young woman who Alyosha begins to love, an unfaithful wife who he shames, and old man who he gives hope. He has to bribe his way into a train. And is traveling on another train when a bridge is destroyed. But he is determined to make it to his village to see his mother, even if it is just to give her one big hug before he has to return to the front. It's a wonderful story, full of setbacks and tension and just plain human feelings.
Filmed it black and white, and a mere 89 minutes long, it contains images of Russia that Americans rarely see. The countryside is devastated, but yet there's a spirit of a hearty people full of grit and determination to survive. It's a sad story too, and bittersweet. By the end of the film I was sobbing out loud. This is a fine film. Highly recommended.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Ode to a Soldier
With the exception of Andrei Tarkovsky, Soviet cinema remains rather unknown this side of the Atlantic. Read more
Published on May 4 2007 by Czaro Woj
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for any collection, a must see for everyone
The details of the story have been covered well in other reviews, so I'll pass on that aspect. This DVD is flawlessly rendered. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2002 by Jim Krupnik
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing film!!!
After waiting for over one hour in line, finally I got a seat just in front of the huge screen. 1960 in Argentina. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2002 by OMAR FUENTES
5.0 out of 5 stars A memorable classic--deserves to be better-known
I am amazed that most people have never heard of nor seen this wonderful movie. To me it is, quite simply, one of the best movies ever made. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle Soviet homage to the art of Chekhov?
While on the surface Chukhraj's film unabashedly glorifies as heroic the Soviet system, I couldn't help suspecting that his real intention was to pay homage to Anton Chekhov (he... Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2002 by Susan E. Neill
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle Soviet homage to the art of Chekhov?
While on the surface Chukhraj's film unabashedly glorifies the Soviet system, I couldn't help suspecting that his real intention was to pay homage to Anton Chekhov (he even names a... Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2002 by Susan E. Neill
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best films I've ever seen!
The film is a simple, poignant, human story that transcends boundaries and sums up the best and worst that humanity is capable of. Read more
Published on July 6 2002 by "jgmh"
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