Friday, October 8, 2010

The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

Genre : Romance, War Drama.
Language : Russian
Country : Soviet Union (USSR)
Cast : Tatyana Samojlova, Aleksey Batalov, Vasili Merkuryev.
Directed by : Mikhail Kalatozov
Run Time : 97 min.
Release Date : 1957

Synopsis :
‘The Cranes Are Flying’ (Russian: Letyat Zhuravli) is a Soviet film about the horrors and consequences of World War II. It depicts the cruelty of war and the damage suffered by the people of Soviet Union.

The film is based on a Soviet family of Fyodor Ivanovich, a doctor and who lives with his son, Boris, and daughter, Irina. His mother and nephew Mark also live with them. The film centres on Boris's girlfriend, Veronika, and her experiences during wartime. She is nicknamed ‘Belka’ (‘Squirrel’).

World War II breaks out, and Soviet people come forward to volunteer in the war with great patriotic fervour. Boris also volunteers to defend his motherland from the enemies, much to Veronika's sadness. He leaves for the war, and is killed, saving a fellow soldier. However, he is listed as missing in action and neither Veronika nor his family know that he has been killed.

The German blitzkrieg then begins, and the family is terrorized by nights of bombing; they take refuge in the subway system underneath the city. During one attack, Veronika lost her parents in their bombarded apartment, and Fyodor Ivanovich invites Veronika to live with his family. Mark, who has been pursuing Veronika from a long time, is put in charge of taking care of Veronika. He is obviously in love with her, but she continually rejects him because she is waiting for Boris to return. However, during one bombing raid, Veronika refuses to go down to the shelter and is raped by Mark. Ashamed Veronika reluctantly agrees to marry Mark, and the rest of the family believes that she has betrayed Boris.

The family is relocated with many other Russians to Siberia in order to escape the German offensive. They live in a temporary community where Fyodor Ivanovich, Irina, and Veronika work in a military hospital. Mark and Veronika are both unhappy in their marriage. When a soldier in the hospital becomes hysterical due to his girl friend’s betrayal, Fyodor implicitly denounces Veronika while cheering him. She become upset and tries to do suicide, but fails. Shortly after that, Fyodor finds out that Mark bribed an official in Fyodor’s name to get exemption. Fyodor suddenly realizes that Mark has not only betrayed Russia, but he has betrayed the whole family and has taken advantage of Veronika. He confronts Mark and kicks him out of the house, while Veronika is allowed to stay and is forgiven by the family for "betraying" Boris.

The soldier who was saved by Boris, comes in search of Boris's family to tell them the news. When Veronika finds out, she refuses to believe it, saying that Boris's friend Stepan will know what happened to him. When the soldiers come back at a victory parade Veronika meets Stepan and she finds out that Boris is indeed dead. Boris's friend Stepan makes a speech during the parade asserting that they will never forget those who died in the war, but peace must be maintained.

Cast :
■ Veronika (Tatyana Samojlova)
■ Boris (Aleksey Batalov)
■ Fyodor Ivanovich (Vasili Merkuryev)
■ Mark (Aleksandr Shvorin )
■ Irina (Svetlana Kharitonova)
■ Volodya (Konstantin Nikitin)
■ Stepan (Valentin Zubkov)
■ Grandmother (Antonina Bogdanova)
■ Tyernov (Boris Kokovkin)
■ Anna Mikhajlovna (Yekaterina Kupriyanova)

Awards :
1. It won the ‘Palme d'Or Award’ at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the second of two Soviet films to win the award. Tatyana Samojlova received Special Mention for this film.
2. It was nominated for ‘Best Film - Any Source’ at the 1958 BAFTA Awards.

Ratings : = 8.0/10; = 4.5/5
[Source : Wikipedia, IMDB, AllMovie, Vobzor]

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