A Movie for the People

 

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In the decade following the end of World War II, Soviet cinema pertaining to the conflict did little to address the personal damages and emotions felt by the common citizen. While some films simply portrayed a world where the conflict seemingly never happened, there were of course notable films covering the Soviet Union’s victory in the struggle of “The Great Patriotic War”. Aside from being relatively rare occurrences, these films tended to focus on the role of the Soviet leadership during the war rather than the harsh reality faced by the common people who fought and endured throughout the darkest days of WWII.

This trend continued until 1955, with the release of the film The Soldier Ivan Brovkin. The movie depicts a story all too familiar to many people of the Soviet Union, a young man of simple rural upbringing who is drafted into service for the Red Army. While the values portrayed in the movie were certainly relatable to many, the film was set in peacetime and showed no actual images of warfare. It wasn’t until 1957 that Soviet audiences would witness a film that would revisit the emotions felt during the turbulent early periods of the war, immortalized on the big screen in director Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying.

The Cranes Are Flying took a different direction than all the Soviet war films that preceded it, focusing not on the Soviet leadership and the glory of the victory over the Germans, bur rather the cruelties and suffering of the war faced by millions. The movie also has a female main star, representing the hardships of Soviet women during the period. The plot follows the story of Veronika, a woman whose boyfriend, Boris, has answered the patriotic call to war as the Germans begin Operation Barbarossa and invade the Soviet Union.

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A particularly powerful scene depicts the moment where Boris is preparing to be marched off to the front, anxiously waiting for Veronika to find him. She arrives as the crowds flock around the departing column of new troops. She manages to spot him while desperately searching down the formation, repeatedly calling to him. In the chaotic, deafening crowd, Boris doesn’t hear her, and they fail to see each other for what would have been a final goodbye. While retreating back to Moscow in the face of the Nazi Blitzkrieg, Boris is killed saving a fellow soldier. It is a truly heartbreaking moment; Boris is mistakenly listed as MIA, leaving Veronika clinging to hope as she endures even more tragedies. Her parents are presumably killed, and then a scene alludes to her being raped by a man named Mark, the nephew of Boris’s father who has long pursued her. In shame, she marries him. Eventually she is freed from the marriage, only to find out once and for all that Boris has indeed been killed. The movie closes having depicted the horrible realities faced by so many Soviet women, as well as the sacrifice made by almost 9 million Red Army soldiers who lost their lives.

The film went on to win the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival, the only Soviet film to win the award. The powerful emotions in The Cranes Are Flying remain timeless as they are felt in every war; the horrible feeling of being separated from a loved one while they march off into combat, and the terrible news of learning that they have fallen in battle. Should you be interested in viewing this great piece of Soviet post-war cinema, it can be found posted below.

 

Sources: James von Geldern. War Films – 17 Moments in Soviet History. Soviethistory.msu.edu.

 

The Cranes Are Flying, parts I and II:

 

7 thoughts on “A Movie for the People”

  1. I love the different kinds of art that came out during WWII. This post was extremely interesting to me because it was one significant movie and how it impacted the Soviet people. It’s amazing how people grasped onto the idea of love and romance and how it made them stronger as a country. There is love in war. Awesome post!

  2. My post last week discussed how the Soviet government did nothing to aid the soldiers or civilians in healing their wounds from the war. The psychological damages were swept under the rug, much like in the way the movie industry did not address the hardships of war. I find it interesting that once this movie, The Cranes are Flying, did address the hardships, that it went on to win awards. This could have been the movie that the Soviets needed in order to begin the healing process.

  3. This was a great post. It is so sad to think that the all of the hardships faced by the common people were overlooked as if it never happened, but I feel as though it still is something happening in today’s world more than it probably should. This movie seemed like it would have been extremely popular because it did not just focus on men’s hardships or women’s, but rather it brought light to both gender’s hardships during the war.

  4. This is a very thought provoking post. You really begin to see the changes in Soviet Culture that came about post Stalin. I love your title because this movie truly was for the people. For the first time the proletariat saw themselves in the cinema. Art, it seemed, once again demonstrated the voice and beliefs of the people. The thaw was definitely a time of cultural upheaval in the USSR and this is one such instance of that change. Solid post.

  5. Great movie selection and great post! If you want to add more Soviet WWII movies to your viewing list, you should check out Come and See (my personal favorite, it is absolutely devastating) and Ivan’s Childhood! Good job this week! How did you come to find this movie?

  6. Interesting post, and good comments from others. It’s important to note that this film focused on the early stages of the war, which were most traumatic for the Soviet people and exposed the limits of the leadership. Once the Soviet army begins its march towards the west, the emotional issues become more complex, and perhaps harder to present in this dramatic way.

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