Starts off slow but then gradually builds and builds into a cathedral of emotions, as you/me (the viewer) are caught (for moments) with a sense of maybe, perhaps...just around the corner something....
A gradual dawning emotional tour de force, as the director uses the suspense of redemption, forgiveness and happiness to drag the viewer through the film and then gives it a twist by slapping the face...this is it...this is reality...stop dreamming!!! A highly emotionally literate film that appears at first to be a hamfisted love story, but then somewhere, someplace it just drops through a trapdoor and dangles in an existential meaningless, an inability to communicate, idealism turned into vapour all trampling all over that beating patriotic sentiment.
The Germans hardly make an entrance, you never see them. But you feel their effects as this stresses the impact of war oozing through every frame. A war film which depicts the effect through a woman's eyes, (yes they did exist then) who waits for her lover to return...thinking...well you know...perhaps it will be OK.
Meanwhile, as she thinks, her world is slowly torn away piece by piece, all ideals, values, everything she dreams and values, just disappears. The only connection she makes is through the Cranes (big birds) who bring the rhythms of nature back to the real world, shattered by the war. Along with human contact that anchors her to keep on living, these arise as the values that sustain human beings.
The film is a subtle portrayal of emotions linked to Post traumatic stress arising in the people left away from the front line as they await the final telegram. A film without heroics or any final message about patriotism, the Communist regime thawing in 1956 allowed these sparklers to emerge. Again this sweeps over anything equivalent within the West and resonates with Ken Loach rather than Bruckenheimer,