Monday, January 4, 2010

The Cranes are Flying

Recently watched this wonderful film that seems as fresh today as it was 50-plus years ago when it was made.  It captures the sense of coping with WWII from the domestic side, as lovely Veronika is forced to live life without her boyfriend, Boris, who volunteered for the front.  After a fateful explosion, she comes to live with Boris' family and is soon seduced by the brother, an inspiring concert pianist, who she is never able to fully warm up to.

At the heart of the story is a stuffed squirrel with a little basket of nuts, which Boris gave to his dear "Belka" before leaving for the train.  In the basket, Boris had stuffed a note which isn't revealed until much later when Veronika and Mark have relocated to Siberia, with Moscow under siege by the Germans.  Veronika has not be able to forgive herself for giving up on Boris, and it is during a tough scene at a hospital, where she works as a nurse for Boris' father, that the point of her unfaithfulness is driven home by a wounded soldier who gets a "Dear John" letter.

It doesn't make it any easier when she learns the fate of her first love.  The movie doesn't pull any punches and probably would have never seen the light of day under Stalin.  Not that it is politically charged, but there are some biting comments made by the father in regard to state of Soviet affairs at the time.

I can't help but think that if more movies like this had been made available to the broader public during the Cold War there would have been much less tension between the Soviet Union and the West, as this movie gives a very humane view of life behind the Iron Curtain, which we saw so little of in the West.

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