Friday 24 February 2012
The Cranes Are Flying 
The Cranes Are Flying became a darling in the film festival circuits upon its release, and quite rightly so. This Russian drama by Mikhail Kalatozov remains to this day a powerful and deeply affecting indictment against the utter futility and absurdity of wars. In fact, its basic premise is that of ‘love at the times of war’. After her fiancé Boris voluntarily enlists himself in the army at the break of World War II, Veronika falls victim to the obsession of Boris’ cousin Mark during a night of frightening air raids and the two marry despite her lack of any love for her; while Boris loses his life during one treacherous mission, Veronika sadly bides her time hoping against hope for a happy ending to her misfortune. The most striking aspect of the movie, for me, was the way Kalatozov distinctly contrasted its tone with its form. The tone was one of elegy and melancholy borne out of dashed hopes and lost love; yet, quite interestingly, the brilliant camerawork, the marvelous usage of chiaroscuro, and the expressionistic cinematography lent a strong noirish feel to the proceedings. This terrific juxtaposition courtesy the marvelous concoction of style and substance, and in turn the audacious stylistic choices, made this a devastating film to watch – both emotionally and from an audio-visual perspective. The scene where Boris is killed was a display of bravura filmmaking – the technical excellence achieved through sheer ingenuity reminded me of the woodcutter’s journey into the jungle in Rashomon. This deeply felt storyline reached a heart-wrenching climax on Victory Day which showed that the nation’s triumph and one’s personal happiness are oftentimes mutually exclusive of one another.
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
Genre: Drama/War Drama/Romance
Country: Russia (erstwhile Soviet Union)