The Cranes Are Flying (Летят журавли): A film by Mikhail Kalatozov

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The first indisputable masterpiece of post-Stalin cinema. A luscious portrait of love and loss during World War II and an all times classic movie.

The Cranes Are Flying (Летят журавли): A masterpiece of Soviet era cinema

Veronica and Boris, in deep love for each other, are walking in the streets of Moscow on the day before Veronika's birthday. Veronica is laughing because they are happy together this morning. They see some cranes in the sky. When arriving to Veronica's house they talk about a rendezvous at the bank of the river. And the 2nd World War begins in Moscow on that day.

Boris volunteers to join the army and is sent to the front and they do not have the chance to say goodbye to each other. While waiting for news from Boris, Veronika is raped by Boris' cousin Mark and they marry each other. However, Veronika does not forget Boris, and keeps waiting for him...

The film won (and was nominated for) the following awards:

Awards won:

• Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival
• Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival
• Jussi Awards - Diploma of Merit

Nominated for:

• BAFTA Film Award for Best Film from any Source
• BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actress

Review by Bosley Crowther, published in New York Times on 22 March 1960

Some things that many people may be surprised to find in a Soviet film are the warp and weft of "The Cranes Are Flying", which came to the Fine Arts yesterday. These are a downright obsessive and overpowering revulsion to war and, in contrast, a beautifully tender, almost lyric, feeling for romantic love.

These two amazing expressions, so uncommon in Soviet films, which are more often given to extolling patriotic fervor and the lovable qualities of hydroelectric plants, are the particular thematic distinctions of this extra ordinary prize-winning film, offered here under the cultural exchange agreement promoted by the Soviet Union and our Department of State.

Unusual, too, is the employment of a highly intimate, impressionistic style of cinematic narration to tell the story of a sensitive Moscow girl who weakens and is unfaithful to her sweetheart when he is at the front in World War II. Mikhail Kalatozov, the director, has harked back to a cinematic style that was popular in the days when Pudovkin and Dovzhenko were making heroic revolutionary films. It is a style used in silent pictures, full of angular shots and close-up views of running feet and anguished faces. But M. Kalatozov has brought it up to date to blend with sound and the overlapping idioms of modern screen reportage. It might be called neo-romanticism, applied to a tragic tale.

The story is that of two lovers who are parted by the war—he a stalwart and patriotic fellow who willingly volunteers and marches off, while she, a wholesome maiden, remains behind and tends her hospital job. But under the strain of wartime torments, the loss of her family and her home in an air raid and the loneliness of waiting and not hearing from her beau, she submits to the latter's pianist cousin, who has got out of going to war. And, in the turmoil of the moment, she lovelessly marries him.

The illogic of this marriage is the most glaring fault of the plot, since it represents a conspicuous old-fashioned romantic cliché. But the twist does provide the solid basis for the heroine's subsequent despair and the high moral of the fable, which is that one should stay faithful to one's love.

Other familiar little details may be noted in the film, possibly signifying deliberate propaganda aims. For instance, an aged grandmother bestows upon the departing soldier the sign of the cross. The piano used by the musician is a Steinway. And family affections are strongly pronounced. But most genuine and touching is the emphasis on the steadfast love and devotion of the heroine for her sweetheart—and his for her, as caught in quick scenes at the front.

Thanks to Mr. Kalatozov's direction and the excellent performance Tatyana Samoilova gives as the girl, one absorbs a tremendous feeling of sympathy from this film—a feeling that has no awareness of geographical or political bounds. She is simply a fine, fecund-looking young woman torn from her lover by war. And he, played by Alexei Batalov, is a pleasant and credible young man moved by romantic impulses and shattered by fates outside himself.

Vasily Merkuryev as the soldier's father, Alexander Shvorin as the pianist and Alla Bogdanova as the grandmother make solid characters, too.

Strong music and good English subtitles to translate the Russian dialogue complete a moving drama that carries a message of love.

This movie comes from our personal collection and only one piece is available

DVD rating
Rating - Like New
Like New: a DVD in perfect condition. The box or jewel case is clean and vivid, with no signs of wear.


Tatyana Samojlova, Aleksey Batalov, Vasili Merkuryev, Aleksandr Shvorin, Svetlana Kharitonova, Konstantin Nikitin, Valentin Zubkov, Antonina Bogdanova, Boris Kokovkin, Yekaterina Kupriyanova, Valentina Ananyina, O. Dzisko, Klarina Frolova, Leonid Knyazev, Yu. Kulikov, Pyotr Merkuryev, Daniil Netrebin, Aleksandr Popov, I. Preis, T. Shamshurin, Nikolai Smorchkov, Galina Stepanova, Adrián Viador, Valentina Vladimirova


Black & White, PAL

Main soundtrack

•  Russian (Mono) with English subtitles
•  Russian (Dolby Digital 5.1) with English subtitles
•  English (Dolby Digital 5.1)


As above


Region 2: Europe (except Russia, Ukraine and Belarus), Western Asia, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, French overseas territories, Greenland

Aspect ratio


Number of discs





Nouveaux Pictures

Release date

29 January 2007 in the U.K.

Run time

97 minutes (1 hour 37 mins)




  • SKU: MOV-ACT-DRA-1001

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