The Cranes Are Flying

No other work more powerfully symbolized the coming of the Khrushchev “thaw” in Soviet culture than Kalatozov's masterpiece, winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival. Like many other Soviet films, it was a tale of wartime love and loss, but here Soviet audiences saw characters who were not model heroes but flawed, contradictory, and completely understandable human beings. Veronika (Tatiana Samojlova) and Boris (Aleksey Batalov) are lovers looking forward to a life together. When the war breaks out, Boris heads off to the front while Veronika stays behind and succumbs to Boris's cousin Mark (Aleksandr Shvorin). The situations each character confronts, the kinds of compromises and excuses they are often forced to make, is the stuff of Kalatozov's film; buoyed by cinematographer Sergei Urushevsky's extraordinarily vibrant camerawork, The Cranes Are Flying achieves an almost mythic dimension, as the story of these star-crossed lovers becomes the story of a nation.

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