Friday, November 13, 2015

Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying) (1957)

Today's film is The Cranes are Flying, which focuses on Russian families during World War II.  It mainly follows one woman and her family.  This is Veronika, who is in love with Boris and plans to marry him.  Boris's cousin, Mark, is also in love with Veronika and is a total creeper whenever he's around her.

Boris is smart and talented enough to avoid the draft, but he volunteers to serve his country.  Mark somehow escapes the draft, but we will learn how later.  In the scene where the soldiers are leaving for war, we see all of the families saying goodbye. There are new mothers holding tiny babies, looking very worried, as well as old grandparents who have seen war before. Most of the films like this would be propaganda about how great it is to serve, but we really see that this may be the last day any of them see their families.

Next comes the German bombings that destroy everything.  It's easy to see the Soviet Union as the faceless monster of communism, but it had real people who lived there, and millions of people died during the war.  Veronika loses her parents when their house is hit, and Boris's family invites her to stay with them.  During another air raid, Veronika hides out with Mark, and he takes advantage of the fact that no one is around and rapes her, then manages to shame her into marrying him.  We knew he was a bad guy creeper the whole time.  Afterwards, he is a terrible husband, ignoring her to play music and party.  Eventually we learn that Mark bribed someone to escape the draft and he is later kicked out of his marriage and his house.

Veronika works at a hospital as a nurse and sees many injured soldiers.  After one soldier has a breakdown because his girlfriend left him, she leaves to go outside.  She never meant to hurt Boris and she's stuck with someone else.  Meanwhile, Boris dies while trying to save another soldier, but she doesn't find out until the war is over.  At first she doesn't believe it, because he's listed as missing. She decides to wait until his friend, who volunteered with him, returns.  Unfortunately, he really is dead.  Meanwhile, she takes care of a child missing his parents, who more than likely were killed in an air raid.

When the war is over, the surviving soldiers return.  Boris's friend gives her a bouquet of flowers to show her he's sorry for her loss and tells everyone a speech about how they will never forget those who served.  Meanwhile, Veronika takes out the flowers from the bouquet and hands them out to others.  The film serves as a remembrance of all the Soviet soldiers and citizens who died in World War II.  It also shows how people grow up and change by war.  Veronika went from a goofy girl who called herself "Squirrel" to a mature nurse who takes in a child and stands up to her loser husband and kicks him out.  I will give this film an 8/10.


  1. I like this for the point you made about how it humanizes the Soviets and showed the impacts on them from WWII.

    1. Thanks, this is the first film I saw do this.