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Wings (1966)

Krylya (original title)
| Drama | 1996 (USA)
A fascinating and human portrayal of a once-famous fighter pilot and loyal Stalinist named Nadezhda Petrovna. Now a 41-year-old provincial schoolmistress, she has so internalized the ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mayya Bulgakova ...
Nadezhda Petrukhina
Sergey Nikonenko ...
Sergei Bystryakov
Zhanna Bolotova ...
Panteleymon Krymov ...
Pavel Gavrilovich (as Pantelejmon Krymov)
Leonid Dyachkov ...
Mitya Grachov
Vladimir Gorelov ...
Yuri Medvedev ...
Boris Grigoryevich
Nikolay Grabbe ...
Kostya Shuvalov
Zhanna Aleksandrova ...
Rimma Markova ...
Shura (as Rimma Nikitina-Markova)
Arkadi Trusov ...
Olga Gobzeva ...
Boris Yurchenko ...
Evgeniy Evstigneev ...
Natalya Gitserot ...
(as N. Gitserot)


A fascinating and human portrayal of a once-famous fighter pilot and loyal Stalinist named Nadezhda Petrovna. Now a 41-year-old provincial schoolmistress, she has so internalized the military ideas of service and obedience that she cannot adjust to life in peacetime. Written by International Film Circuit <ifcplanet@aol.com>

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1996 (USA)  »

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Asas  »

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1.37 : 1
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On the Wings of Time
5 November 2008 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Wings (1966)

How do we move on from our past glories? Can we? Do we even want to? Nostalgia is a powerful thing, sometimes too powerful for our own good. Larisa Shepitko's stunning debut feature Wings delves into these queries with the assured hand of an artist, executed in a patient and touching fashion.

Nadezhda Petrovna (Maya Bulgakova) is a former WWII fighter pilot hero struggles with her place in the world now that she is over forty and assigned as the head mistress of the provincial school, and seated in a meaningless bureaucratic post. When asked a question pertaining to her government field, she simply replies "I don't know anything." She is single, though in a loveless relationship with a museum curator. Her daughter has gone off and married an older man, yet Nadezhda has only met him over the phone. Of course, this hurts the lonely woman, so much so that she confides to her museum curator boyfriend that if she had been her real daughter she would have disowned her. She has nothing but memories and longings, and her job at the school. There she seems to find joy in fleeting moments. When one girl refuses to go on during a musical number, she puts on the girls costume instead so the others can still go on. But even there her life meets conflict. One student treats another, a girl, with physical cruelty. Nadezhda scolds him in front of a party gathering, after which he runs off. When he returns, he responds to question, "why?" with a blunt, "because I despise you." The film is juxtaposed with occasional flashbacks, usually just visuals - planes flying and soaring through the sky. But one turns out to be a fairly lengthy and dreamy rendering of a day out of the hospital with her love. the next sequence shows us how his plane went down, with Nadezhda on his tail. The plane crashes in a ball of flames, the wreckage captured in a swooping shot coming in overhead, freeze framing just directly above for moment, then moving on.

The glories she once knew, of love and heroism, a purpose in life, they're gone now, or so she feels. Her job at the school has the potential for a new purpose, but the cruelty only a couple students are enough to dissuade her from realizing that potential, and persuasion enough to leave the job and start anew. Her destiny is in the skies. After visiting with her daughter and her husband, who is entertaining his intellectual friends, she accuses her daughter of pitying her mother. She's just a plain old military woman, unsophisticated. Even though people seem to know her name and who she is everywhere she goes, its the truth.

There are many great movies about our yearning for the past, the desire to return to our glory days. Although Wings is a hearkening back to Nadezhda's military days and the difficulty of adapting to a peacetime life, perhaps drawing correlations to movies like The Best Years of Our Lives or Coming Home, it can equally be equated with films like Sunset Blvd. Wings though is just a different kind of film with a more touching execution. Although at times Nadezhda makes her situation more difficult than need be, she is always a sympathetic character.

Larisa Shepitko was one of the Soviet Unions unsung heroes. Her career lasted barely a decade, and she made only 4 films. I've seen two of them, this one and The Ascent, and both are nothing short of masterpieces. Sadly, she was killed in a car accident shortly after making The Ascent while scouting locations for her next project. Thankfully her work is again resurfacing thanks to the folks at Criterion. A boxset of Wings and The Ascent has been released through the Eclipse series.

Shepitko infuses her film with deep yearning painted in broad strokes. Her composition, even here in her first film, are assuredly artistic. The cinematography is stunning, particularly in the flashbacks. As beautiful as the film looks visually, and as stirring the direction is, the performance of Maya Bulgakova is at least the equal. Her portrayal of Nadezhda is nothing short of brilliant. She is able to convey so many emotions and express so much feeling with just a body language.

When she goes to visit the airfield, she climbs with struggle into a plane, dressed in her high heels and skirt. The men, overjoyed that the great Nadezhda Petrovna has come to visit, push her back to the hanger. The camera sits on her face for a few moments, as she moves from joy, to teary sadness, back to joy. The gesture is appreciated, but her destiny lies on the wings of love and steel birds.

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