on July 3, 2002
I've never been a huge fan of soviet cinema until I saw this great movie a few months ago. Sure Eisenstein is a great director and he made wonderful classics but this is probably the first russian movie that I can identify with the characters since the Eisenstein movies and a few others that I've seen like Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930) are very political and showing me a culture and a way of life that is interesting and informative but that I can't identify with. This movie tells a simple story about a young couple (Veronika and Boris) that is separated because Boris as to go to war. I think I love this movie so much because it is so open and so full of humanity. It is also very poetic particulary when Boris is at the front and he dreams about his girl back home. But the thing that I admire the most is the superior cinematography, the camera angles are stunning and the close-ups (very close) are almost disturbing because you feel that you are spying on them or following them anywhere they go. Also, great scenes with hand held cameras and used wisely not just to use it but at chosen moments to accentuate dramatic scenes or to show chaos during this time of war. It amaze me that a great reference for cinematography like that is not use or missuse in movies today. If you can, try to catch the movie I am Cuba with the same great director and the same wonderful cinematography, the story is political but unlike early russian movies of Eisenstein and such, the characters are warmer and you can identify with them.
on November 16, 2002
This is one of those few Russian films that truly has to be seen to be believed. Words simply do not do it justice. The story is simple enough. Boris and Veronika are in love with each other but when war breaks Boris volunteers for the fighting, leaving her to the care of his deceitful cousin. Now, the film itself was made during the 'Soviet Thaw' when film makers were given a bit more freedom with which to work, and it shows in the realism of The Cranes are Flying. There is no glorification of war here as it is shown for what it is, a brutal event that seperates loved ones and inevitably leads to death and sorrow for most. There is very little, if any, political propaganda to sift through and the camerawork is absolutely next level. Perhaps the only thing better than the cinematography in this movie are the performances. In fact, it could be said that the only thing more beautiful than Tatyana Samoilova herself, is the performance she gives. An incredible portrayal of a love that triumphs against all odds.
on March 1, 2002
Kalatozov captures a time of beauty in his retrospective look at the relationship between a war-bound young man and the woman left behind. The use of black and white, as well as the use of several hyper-reality dream sequences set a mood of uncertainty and hope. One especially poignant scene is when the young woman loses consciousness during an air raid, while Boris's cousin plays the piano, attempting to win her love. The window breaks and he carries her over the broken glass, a Russian symbol of broken promises.
The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957) shows the agony and the waste of human life that was caused because of World War II, as seen through the eyes of a young woman home without her fiancé, who had volunteered for the war, and was killed while fighting on the front lines. This film would not have been possible when Stalin was alive, for it shows the sadness and the anguish experienced by those left at home without loved ones. There was nothing heroic about Boris's death, as he was shot by a sniper and spent his last moments writhing in a bog. This cannot be seen as uplifting according to wartime Stalinist cinema, for it does not show the glory and the pride that every soldier is supposed to feel when fighting for Russia. It shows the truth, blatantly writing in draft dodgers, the realities of air raids, and the difficulty of keeping contact with loved ones. This was a breakthrough film, for it signals the rising awareness of the Soviet filmgoer, and his or her ability to handle a dose of the truth, even if it is in retrospective form. This acceptance of the truth is closely related to the increase in communist self-confidence. It is almost as if the Soviets realize that they are indeed Communist to the core, and do not need to justify it by eliminating all interior creativity or new ideas that may someday appear to threaten the socialist regime.
on August 15, 2002
Veronica and Boris are in love and they are planning their next meeting. When Boris wakes up the next day he finds out that war has been declared and World War II is about to commence. Boris has thought of enlisting with his best friend to help his country. However, he also knows it would hurt Veronica's feelings if he left for the war. Can he make a decision that could hurt his only love's heart? Knowing that this film was filmed during the Soviet era when film was closely supervised and censored by the Soviet government, fed propaganda lines can be understood. Nevertheless, the film is a sublime experience.
on January 20, 2003
This is one of my favorite movies. It's quality is typical of what I have come to expect of a Criterion reconstruction. Something along the lines of HDTV black and white. It's that good. The story itself is situated at the begining of Russia's Great Patriotic War (WWII). The story covers every inch of human behaviour including happiness, love, sorrow, deceit, manipulation, and heroism against all odds. The last quarter of the movie is a stunning surprise, as it builds to an ending scene that is nothing less than a grand tribute to the best of what makes us human. Even hardcore war movie fans (like me) can expect blurred vision at the end of this film. Not sappy at all, this film will strike a chord with viewers of any country, and most generations. It is not a single view disk.
I don't even know if it has an English language soundtrack, as the tonality of the Russian soundtrack combined with the very well produced English subtitles offers a great connection to the film even for non Russian speaking people. Buy this disk, you wil enjoy it over and over.