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A high flyer which is a Russian masterpiece;
The movie starts with a beautiful "out door ballet" shot between two lovers on 'river Moskva'as they observe the 'cranes sailing like ships' overhead in the clear blue sky in a metaphor, as their human counterparts glide effortlessly on the banks of the shimmering river in the crystal clear sunshine ,and just like the cranes that fly over the Moscow sky and symbolise natural harmony and joy ,this turns forthwith into a groundbreaking movie as world war two bares it ugly fangs to destoy this heavenly vision .

The cinema here is memorable not in that deals with 'variable human values and spirituality' as mocked by the negativity of war but how it brings out the best in humanity in their worst predicaments .

The idealistic youth and his fiancee struggle to overcome the horrors as WW2 breaks out , he voluntarily goes to the front in a rush of patriotic idealism while she awaits his return in a fragile social milieu where the social fabric is being degraged by the nihilistic event in progress.

The waiting is just as harrowing while the shortfall hits the urban capital and the air raids are horrific as is the exploitation of war torn victims itself by the lesser human dregs who seek to benefit from any event which accentuates human misery and 'Tatiana Seminova' is a victim even though she never faces a German soldier,at the hands of her own compatriots and friends who exploit her loneliness and fear, in a mesmerising cinematic experience where she is sexually abused by a close friend in the midst of an air raid ,which is genius as the audio-visual affects of one assault are juxtaposed on another attack, and sexual violence and the demons of war amalgamate in a moment of true horror .

It's not the epic wide screen making but simple emotions that scorch your soul and Tatiana is a truly natural talent as her face speaks volumes ,and the screen becomes immortally transfixed by her performance just as the camera moves with the characters in fluid movements with ingenious use of sound whether it is in air raids or in bereft and bleak battle fields in the macabre forest and dingy marshes ,looking gloomy and doomed,riddled with the crackle of gunfire as individual human beings perish anonymously as random victim of stray bullets ,men are shown as anonymous as the bullets that they fall prey to in timeless memory,and you can see the precious gift of life departing their body in frozen moments , as if witnessing reality in the most powerful images i have ever seen as cold as it is emotionally turbulent .

Some of the scene compositions still look stunning or better then new as they are timelessly eternal and the poignant ending is very cerebral to say the least,the restoration of the print shows a brilliant black and white movie gem shot immaculately and lovingly .

Not to be missed as it flies high from the "Moscow suburbs to the Siberian plains" -a must flight accompanying the majestic cranes which describe the relativity of time in all it's vices and virtues -thus defining pessimism and hope, and the intractable reversion of optimism after a gloomy night of misery that is war itself giving way to peace even if it is merely temporary .
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on 28 May 2007
When I first saw this film in the 50s I stumbled out of the Curzon Cinema in tears and startled an elderly American tourist who wanted directions to Picadilly by sobbing "Go down the street and t-t-t-urn right and your th-th-there"!!! Magnificent camerawork and an outstanding performance from Tatiana Samoilova. This film has stayed in my memory ever since and it is wonderful to finally own it on disc.If you love great cinema and appreciate superb acting---don't hesitate.
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on 1 February 2009
Fabulous cinematography from Sergei Urusevsky help to make this a stunning piece of work. The opening scenes are as if one is leafing through some master photographer's album and as the story begins to unfold we are swept away with both the events depicted and the beautiful look. All is well shot but there are several whole sequences that are simply breathtaking. Difficult to describe without `spoiling' but suffice to say there is a very intense scene during an air raid and the lady left behind and her lover's brother are at odds as the sirens whine and the windows shatter. Another superimposes a swirling staircase and a spinning shot of tree tops and even develops into a fantasy sequence. Soviet film making of the highest order.
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on 12 April 2010
THis is probably the best Russian film of its time - both in its approach to the tragic and sensitive topic of the WWII, in its casting and acting, in its camera work and director's interpretation. Tatyana Samoylova, who won in Cannes with this role, - is at her absolute best in this film - her character is complex and developing and we can see the changes that are happening to her in front of our own eyes. Brillant work of Alexey Batalov and the rest of the cast.
Cinematographically this film was quite a break through at the time - the camera work is superb - worth watching even just for that.
Overall - it is a timeless classic of Russian cinema - a must for everyone who is interested in Russia, cinema and WWII.
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on 2 September 2009
Coming to this film fifty odd years after it was made, I felt its freshness and power as if the paint on a great artist's canvas had not yet even dried. The story of young lovers parted by war is not novel, of course, because it is universal - and the treatment it is given here elevates that universal (indeed commonplace) circumstance to something transcendent. The young cast are astonishing. It is hard to imagine the actress Tatiana Samoilova was just eighteen when she did this. Her expressive range and physical confidence would seem possible only in an older woman. The cinematography - in its grandeur and risk-taking - is quite breathtaking. The directorial eye behind the film is imaginative yet totally secure in its purpose at the same time. Among films with a theme of war - war as experienced by civilians especially - this production stands near the top.
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on 23 March 2011
I always wanted to see this film ,heared so much about it from my father years ago, and it did not dissapoint to think it was filmed so many years ago with so much details totally amazing, also the acting is superb hats up to the director and cameraman.
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on 14 May 2007
This black and white Russian film, considered a popular classic in Russia, was made by Mosfilm in 1957 and reflects the period of the "Thaw", brought in after the death of Stalin in 1953 and particularly after the Secret Speech of Krushchev to the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1956. Thus, at one point, the female lead, Veronica, says, apropos of nothing, in conversation, that she is afraid of the police (meaning NKVD?); also, some ridicule is heaped on "fulfilling the Plan", which would never be heard in a Soviet film under Stalin! And the grandmother of a character going off to war in 1941 (when the film starts) crosses herself...The film covers the personal lives of a family and friends, particularly the beautiful and healthy Veronica (whose playful girlishness and occasional seriousness reminded me of a Soviet girlfriend I once had), her volunteer soldier fiance, Boris and the third part of the triangle, a young non-volunteering composer, all hit by large scale activity (war) rather than the reverse situation, as would have been the case in a Stalinist film in which the people would subordinate themselves without question to the ends of the State. The young composer is called Mark, always a Jewish name in Russia. The actor playing him has pronounced Semitic features; it turns out that he is both exempted from service through bribery and that he is unfaithful. Veronica leaves him but takes in a three year old orphan boy named Boris, whom she saves from being squashed by a truck...In the end, the war finishes and it becomes clear that Boris the fiance has been lost forever. Through her tears, Veronica sees the cranes flying again and a new life about to emerge. Again, a reference to wider issues, perhaps.

The film is highly stylized in many ways, artistically. It contains a dream or delusion sequence not unakin to that in Spellbound or, perhaps better, like the dreamlike sequences in the later Russian film epic, War and Peace, directed by Sergey Bondarchuk. As in many Russian films, music, particularly that of the late 1930's, plays a big part, : Katyusha, The March of Zanzegur, etc. This DVD appears to be of Chinese manufacture and one has the choice of Chinese or Russian dialogue and of Chinese or English subtitles. The English subtitles are fine, presumably the original Mosfilm or Sovexportfilm translation, but the English blurb on the DVD case is really funny: "his house fried,Parents died..." etc! Apart from that, though, this is a recommended film and the print is amazingly crisp for its age and provenance.
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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,
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on 8 May 2009
A superb film works on many levels. A classic Russian Great Patriotic War film. Cinematography, although in B&W
is superb. One of Mosfilms great productions. Highly recommend if you like this period.
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on 27 October 2012
I, Melachi ibn Amillar, being of unsound mind and body, did watch "The Cranes are Flying" (1957), a Soviet war film by Mikhail Kalatozov, in October 2012. It tells the story of a girl whose fiancé goes to war, and tells it simply and directly, unencumbered by side-plots. The cinematography is first rate, though highly stylized; most shots could be framed as stills and displayed. The acting is hammy, to modern tastes -- whichever emotion is required from the script is presented, in the style of a Russian icon, more like an opera or comic. The few battle episodes are poor, and several scenes too melodramatic; surely old fashioned, even in 1957. With the change of a very few shots, it could have been set in any country, and with some updating (or, indeed, predating), at any time. Like any serious film about war, it is rather upsetting, and its simplicity tends to exacerbate this; rather more so than would some trendy, progressive treatment. Is this a great film? Well, I, Melachi, in 2012, would say it is a first rate film, within its limitations.
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