Once again, directors in the Soviet state took a radically new direction with film. I had previously blogged about how under the direction of Boris Shumiatskii, Soviet films suddenly became lighthearted affairs which did little to promote the Soviet state and values while focusing on becoming a completely entertaining experience. Films such as Happy-Go-Lucky, a musical in which actors who were playing in a band playfully began to hit each other with their instruments throughout much of the movie, were quite common. The few films that dealt with the Soviet state in the post-war period pretended that the Soviet Union was a peaceful place with healthy families and couples. It was as if the war had never even occurred. Even rarer were the films that addressed the war; these films were focused more on the experience of the leaders of the war effort as opposed to the soldiers. The time of ignorance, however, quickly came to a halt.
Cranes are Flying was a revolutionary film made in 1957 and directed by Mikhail Kalatazov. In the story, the heroine, Veronika (who was played by Tat’iana Samoilova) was in a relationship with Boris (played by Aleksei Batalov), who passes away while fighting in the war. The movie is a story about a woman who tries to give herself a decent living after the passing of her loved one. This was a ground-breaking movie because it “chronicled the failure of Soviet leadership in the first days of war… and shows people whose sole concern is themselves” (James von Geldern). Cranes are Flying In the link is a clip from the movie which shows the heroine who is unable to find her boyfriend, Boris, before he leaves to fight in war. The scene is an incredibly chaotic few minutes which is undoubtedly a commentary on how the Soviets, especially the women, felt a considerable amount of heartache during the war and also about how excruciatingly frenzied the beginning of the war was. In the beginning of the scene, it was as if Tatiana didn’t even know Boris was leaving for what would be his very last time and leaves the viewer feeling incredibly sad that Tatiana couldn’t say goodbye. Clearly, this movie is a big departure from the carefree and casual films previously made in the post-war period.
The movie was extraordinary and hauntingly real for both Soviet viewers and for international viewers alike and won the Golden Palm Award at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival. It was celebrated for its truthfulness in the storytelling. Gone were the days in which films were like Soviet propaganda, showing heroic Soviet soldiers and brave Soviet citizens. Films such as Cranes are Flying gave the audience a genuine story about the struggles and hardships during the war. Beyond the movie, it helped audiences from around the world gain an appreciation for the Soviet Union and contempt for war.
Sadoule, Georges. “Thoughts on Festival in Cannes.” Current Digest of the Russian Press. 1957. http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13822063
von Geldern, James. “War Films.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1956cranes&Year=1956&navi=byYear
Image: Cranes are Flying by B.A. Zelenskii. Electronic Museum of Russian Posters. http://www.soviethistory.org/images/thumb.php?year=1956&fname=428.jpg
Video: The Cranes are Flying by Mikhail Kalatazov. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=video&SubjectID=1956cranes&Year=1956&navi=byYear