Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ballad Of A Soldier (1959)

Genre : War Drama, Romance.
Language : Russian
Country : Soviet Union (USSR)
Cast : Vladimir Ivashov, Zhanna Prokhorenko.
Directed by : Grigori Chukhrai
Run Time : 88 min
Release Date : 1st December, 1959

Synopsis :
“Ballad of a Soldier” (Russian: Ballada O Soldate) is an apolitical Soviet film depicting the humanitarian impulses of its characters to their nature rather than to an adherence to state ideologies. The plot of the film is set during World War II and shows how the Red Army soldier Alyosha tries to make it home during a leave, meeting several people on his way and falling in love with Shura.

Ballad of a Soldier is not primarily a war film. It recounts, within the context of the turmoil of war, various kinds of love - the romantic love of a young couple, the committed love of a married couple, and a mother's love of her child!

Plot :
The film tells the story of a young and naive Russian soldier Alexei Nikolaevich Skvortsov aka ‘Alyosha’ (Vladimir Ivashov) and his journey to home in the midst of World War II. The story starts with the chase of a scared signalman Pvt. Alyosha (19) by two German tanks. In the attempt of self-preservation, Alyosha single-handedly manages to destroy the German tanks and earns a commendation for his bravery. Instead of accepting a medal, he requests the General to grant him a 4-day leave to go home. The kind General awarded him a 6-day leave pass to visit his mother and repair the leaking roof of his village house!

During his journey to home, he encounters the devastation the war has brought on his war-torn country and meets numerous people and uses up much of his valuable leave time through his efforts to help others! The first person he met was a soldier Pvt. Pavlov, who asked Alyosha to meet his wife in route to home and give her two pieces of soap as a gift. At the railway station, Alyosha helps and encourages a veteran soldier Vasya (Yevgeni Urbansky) who, having lost a leg in the war, is afraid to return to his wife, fearing she might reject him!

At the changing station, Alyosha met a venal train guard Gavrilkin (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) willing to grant him free passage in a freight car of a military supply train in exchange for some cans of beef. Riding in the train, he met a young and beautiful girl Shura (Zhanna Prokhorenko) and falls in love with her. The scared girl made innocent Alyosha to believe that she’s on her way to visit her fiancĂ©. So, he tried to help her in any way to reach her destination. On the way, Alyosha met Pavlov’s wife (V. Markova) and found that she has betrayed her husband by marrying other man. He took back the soaps from her, and gives it to old and sick Pavlov’s father (Vladimir Pokrovsky) in the hospital, who longs for his son’s return.

After wasting his most of the leave time in helping others, Alyosha finally manages to arrive home too late. He only has enough time to hug his mother and immediately start on his journey back to his unit, before his 6-day leave expires. He finds his way back to the front but, as told via voiceover, he never returns from the war! At the end, the voiceover narrator says, “He would have been a fine man.... but we remember him just as a soldier - a Russian Soldier!” - emphasizing not his political ideology but his national identity!

Cast :
■ Private Alyosha Skvortsov (Vladimir Ivashov)
■ Shura (Zhanna Prokhorenko)
■ Alyosha’s Mother (Antonina Maksimova)
■ The General (Nikolai Kryuchkov)
■ Vasya (Yevgeni Urbansky)
■ Vasya's Wife (Elza Lezhdey)
■ Gavrilkin -The Train Sentry (Aleksandr Kuznetsov)
■ Zoya (Marina Kremnyova)
■ Liza - Pavlov’s Wife (V. Markova)
■ Old man in Hospital - Pavlov’s Father (Vladimir Pokrovsky)

Awards :
1. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.
2. It won the Golden Wolf Award for Best Film at the 1960 Bucharest Film Festival.
3. It won the Golden Gate Award for Best Film and Best Director at the 5th San Francisco International Film Festival, 1960.
4. It won the 1960 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Participation.
5. It won the 1961 BAFTA Award for Best Film - Any Source.
6. It won the Bodil Awards for Best European Film, 1961.
7. It was nominated for the 1961 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
8. It was nominated for the 1960 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Award for Best Foreign Film.

Ratings : = 8.1/10; = 4/5.
[Source : Wikipedia, IMDB, AllMovie, Criterion]

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