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The Cranes are Flying: An Old Film Gets a New Life
an article by Joe Yannielli

It is difficult to find a war movie that does not glorify senseless violence, let alone one which focuses on women empowerment. However, world audiences are in for a rare treat. On April 16th, 2002, Criterion will be releasing the first DVD edition of the classic Russian film, The Cranes are Flying.

Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, this 1957 film has been applauded by many critics for its revolutionary camera techniques and strong emotional appeal. Most importantly, Cranes was one of few war movies to call for hope in the face of adversity and to carry a strong message for peace. The film, which won the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Festival, stars Tat'iana Samoilova as Veronika, a young Russian woman who is deeply in love with a factory worker, Boris (Aleksei Batalov), on the verge of World War II. The film follows Veronika as Boris leaves to defend his country against the Nazi onslaught. Afterwards, Veronika is cornered into an unwanted marriage and must struggle to maintain hope in her lover's safe return.

Kalatozov combines unique crane shots and frantic camera movements to create a first person perspective of Veronika's plight. Watching the film, it is hard not to lament her defeats and become uplifted by her ultimate empowerment as she is driven to the verge of suicide by her abusive husband and rediscovers the joy of living though an adopted child.

Cranes illustrates the violent atmosphere of war-torn Russia. However, it is done tastefully. Kalatozov utilizes indirect effects such as sirens, explosions, and gunfire without ever showing a bomb or an enemy soldier. The implication of violence, rather than overt death and destruction, reveals its tragic impact without glorifying the action.

The dynamic created between Veronika's story and Kalatozov's direction is what makes Cranes so remarkable. Its ultimate message of peace, hope, and rebuilding applies to all countries moving from a culture of war to a culture of peace. The upcoming international DVD release will hopefully carry this message to all corners of the globe.


Question(s) related to this article:

Can films about war advance the cause of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

In addition to the original article on which this question was based, The Cranes Are Flying: An Old Film Gets a New Life, this question now refers to another CPNN article, James Nachtwey: An Anti-war Photographer.  Readers' comments are invited.

This report was posted on April 4, 2002.