Veronica and Boris are blissfully in love, until the eruption of World War II tears them apart. Boris is sent to the front lines...and then communication stops. Meanwhile, Veronica tries to ward off spiritual numbness whil... more »e Boris' draft-dodging cousin makes increasingly forceful overtures. Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival, The Cranes are Flying is a superbly crafted drama, bolstered by stunning cinematography and impassioned performances.« less
Darwin H. (movienut) from BLOOMINGTON, MN Reviewed on 4/7/2013...
Quite impressive. Very "Russian" - stark close-ups, direct to the point minimal dialogue, excellent black & white photography. If you want to see the Russian cultural and cinematic "thaw" that came about shortly after Stalin's death and Krushchev's denunciation of the "cult of personality" it is on brilliant display here.
The fact that it came out in 1957 (only four years after Stalin died) makes it even more amazing. It most definitely did not "tow the Russian cinema party line" in terms of tone. I'm sure if they had tried to release something like this while Stalin was around the director would have been sent to the Gulag or worse. Actually, it simply wouldn't have been possible to make it as everyone involved would have lived in fear during the production.
Why? Well simply because this is a very gripping personal family story as opposed to a glib appeal to nation and duty. The plot is centered around two young lovers and how the outbreak of WW II breaks them and their families apart. Excellently acted and brilliantly shot. And I must say I greatly enjoyed the ending as well. It did not go where I feared it was heading. It apparently made quite a splash and was seen as a breath of fresh air when it was first released. Well worth a look if you get the chance.
This has been a MovieNut "no spoilers" quick review.
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Classic war story returns
Chapulina R | Tovarischi Imports, USA/RUS | 08/19/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm pleased to see "Letyat zhuravlii" available in video, and with subtitles. This is a classic Soviet film, set during the Patriotic War. It begins with the cranes flying over Moscow, and for Veronika and Boris, the stolen evening hours are idyllic. Suddenly their plans are shattered by War. When Boris goes to the front, his fiancee cherishes his farewell gift and vows to await his return. Meanwhile, Boris' cousin, Mark, who has bribed his way to a deferment, schemes to win her heart. War reaches Moscow, and Veronika's parents perish in an air raid. She takes refuge with her fiance's family, loyally resisting the treacherous advances of Mark. Anxiously she awaits letters from the front, which never come. At last, under a barrage of bombing, Veronika is overwhelmed by grief and terror, and succumbs to the cousin's wiles. At the same time, on the frontlines, alone, Boris succumbs to his wounds. Veronika, unaware of Boris' death, weds Mark but remains haunted by guilt. She flees her arrogant, abusive husband to serve as a nurse in a military hospital. When War ends, she has convinced herself that Boris will return with the cranes to Moscow. "Cranes are Flying" is a simple, tragic story, filmed artistically for its time, but without cinematic subtlety. The geometric V-formation of the flying cranes, for instance, is repeated throughout the entire film. The repetative imagery of marching feet, hurrying toward eachother but never meeting, symbolizes the futility of the protagonists' love. The scene of Boris' death is melodramatically drawn out, his final dying thoughts only of his beloved. I'm not sure of the filmmaker's intent here, but honestly, I feel only relief that the likable Boris is spared the hurt of Veronika's betrayal. Despite some cliche' and distraction, "Cranes are Flying" is a worthwhile film. The final scene is powerful; the viewer will not be left dry-eyed. Recommended for anyone who cares about the human tragedy of war."
Lyrical, poignant, and beautiful story.
Matthew Phillips | Knoxville, Tennessee United States | 11/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those few Russian films that truly has to be seen to be believed. Words simply do not do it justice. The story is simple enough. Boris and Veronika are in love with each other but when war breaks Boris volunteers for the fighting, leaving her to the care of his deceitful cousin. Now, the film itself was made during the 'Soviet Thaw' when film makers were given a bit more freedom with which to work, and it shows in the realism of The Cranes are Flying. There is no glorification of war here as it is shown for what it is, a brutal event that seperates loved ones and inevitably leads to death and sorrow for most. There is very little, if any, political propaganda to sift through and the camerawork is absolutely next level. Perhaps the only thing better than the cinematography in this movie are the performances. In fact, it could be said that the only thing more beautiful than Tatyana Samoilova herself, is the performance she gives. An incredible portrayal of a love that triumphs against all odds."
"I've never been a huge fan of soviet cinema until I saw this great movie a few months ago. Sure Eisenstein is a great director and he made wonderful classics but this is probably the first russian movie that I can identify with the characters since the Eisenstein movies and a few others that I've seen like Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930) are very political and showing me a culture and a way of life that is interesting and informative but that I can't identify with. This movie tells a simple story about a young couple (Veronika and Boris) that is separated because Boris as to go to war. I think I love this movie so much because it is so open and so full of humanity. It is also very poetic particulary when Boris is at the front and he dreams about his girl back home. But the thing that I admire the most is the superior cinematography, the camera angles are stunning and the close-ups (very close) are almost disturbing because you feel that you are spying on them or following them anywhere they go. Also, great scenes with hand held cameras and used wisely not just to use it but at chosen moments to accentuate dramatic scenes or to show chaos during this time of war. It amaze me that a great reference for cinematography like that is not use or missuse in movies today. If you can, try to catch the movie I am Cuba with the same great director and the same wonderful cinematography, the story is political but unlike early russian movies of Eisenstein and such, the characters are warmer and you can identify with them."
Classic example of post-Stalin Soviet thaw film
carolinium | St. Mary's City, Maryland United States | 03/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Kalatozov captures a time of beauty in his retrospective look at the relationship between a war-bound young man and the woman left behind. The use of black and white, as well as the use of several hyper-reality dream sequences set a mood of uncertainty and hope. One especially poignant scene is when the young woman loses consciousness during an air raid, while Boris's cousin plays the piano, attempting to win her love. The window breaks and he carries her over the broken glass, a Russian symbol of broken promises.
The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957) shows the agony and the waste of human life that was caused because of World War II, as seen through the eyes of a young woman home without her fiancé, who had volunteered for the war, and was killed while fighting on the front lines. This film would not have been possible when Stalin was alive, for it shows the sadness and the anguish experienced by those left at home without loved ones. There was nothing heroic about Boris's death, as he was shot by a sniper and spent his last moments writhing in a bog. This cannot be seen as uplifting according to wartime Stalinist cinema, for it does not show the glory and the pride that every soldier is supposed to feel when fighting for Russia. It shows the truth, blatantly writing in draft dodgers, the realities of air raids, and the difficulty of keeping contact with loved ones. This was a breakthrough film, for it signals the rising awareness of the Soviet filmgoer, and his or her ability to handle a dose of the truth, even if it is in retrospective form. This acceptance of the truth is closely related to the increase in communist self-confidence. It is almost as if the Soviets realize that they are indeed Communist to the core, and do not need to justify it by eliminating all interior creativity or new ideas that may someday appear to threaten the socialist regime."