The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

I love the strangeness of this film

with 11 comments

I know so very little about life and history of Eastern Europe. It became obvious to me as I recently watched the film classic The Cranes are Flying, made in the Soviet Union in 1957.

Suddenly the thought struck me: the people in Soviet Union were a part of World War 2 as much as the Brits and Americans. But how much do I know about their perspective? Nothing.

The physical wall that went through Europe not too many years ago, may have crumbled. But as far as culture and heritage it seems as solid as ever. Perhaps this divide also explains why there was something about this film that felt a little odd. The storytelling doesn’t quite follow the normal curve for movies from our part of the world, which often are so standardized that you can foretell exactly what’s going to happen and know on beforehand almost the exact minute when the climax of the film will occur. There are twists and turns in the lives of Veronika and Boris that I didn’t predict, which makes it a little strange, but also refreshing.

I need to add here that some of the strangeness might be attributed to the sub-par quality of the translation. The frequent errors in the usage of words and phrases, resulting in lines that sometimes didn’t make sense at all in the context, made me wonder if they had decided to skip a real translator who wants to be paid for his job, replacing him by running the screenplay through Google translate.

Strange or not; I loved The Cranes are Flying and I can see why this is considered a classic. I’m by no means an expert in cinematography, so I can’t tell in which way this has been groundbreaking or become a source of inspiration for other filmmakers, but I’m pretty sure it has.  It’s so special and beautiful that even I had to take notice about it.

The Cranes are Flying (Letyat zhuravli, Mikhail Kalatozov, RU 1957) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

October 26, 2012 at 1:00 am

11 Responses

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  1. I absolutely love this movie. It has some of my favorite camera work of all time. His other movie I am Cuba is also beautifully shot.

    Dave Enkosky

    October 26, 2012 at 2:42 am

    • Indeed the camera is fascinating. And that it’s in black and white only makes it more beautiful.

      Jessica

      October 26, 2012 at 7:36 am

  2. What a great film this is. One of my favourite pre-Tarkovsky Russian movies, along with Earth (1930) and Battleship Potemkin (1925). Such a classic.

    Tyler

    October 26, 2012 at 10:39 am

    • I’m glad I got the chance to catch it, especially on a big screen since it’s so visually stunning.

      Jessica

      October 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

  3. Nice one Jessica. I’ve never seen this but I have “Soy Cuba” (I am Cuba) at home that I’m desperate to find the time for.

    Mark Walker

    October 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

  4. Harmen

    October 27, 2012 at 8:11 am

    • Usually I’ve got mixed feelings about providing links to Youtube for movies that are avalable by other means. But at least it’s not a new film. And the translation we had to Swedish was absolutely horrible. I hope this one makes more sense.

      Jessica

      October 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      • It’s posted on youtube by Mosfilm, which, according to IMDB, is the production company, so I guess that’s the holder of the copyright. Seems legit, and I’m happy they make their films available this way.

        Harmen

        October 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm

        • Ah, thanks! Well then everything is it order!

          Jessica

          October 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

          • They have quite a catalog on there. I just found the 1967 Anna Karenina (with the same woman who playing in the Cranes are flying). Will be nice to compare it to the one which is released this year.

            Harmen

            October 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm


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