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As the clouds of war spread over Russia during Germany's surprise invasion in 1941, the fervent young lovers, the sensitive Veronika and the stalwart Boris, are parted when the patriotic lad secretly volunteers for the war effort. During the following hard years, Veronika who serves her country as a wartime-nurse will lose communication with Boris, moreover, when a devastating air raid destroys her house and Boris' father takes her in to live with the family, unexpectedly, things will take a turn for the worse. Before long, the worried fiancée will find herself dealing not only with the dark thoughts of Boris' potential loss but also with the burden of an unwelcome decision. Once, the star-crossed lovers swore eternal devotion under a flock of flying cranes, still, a war is always cruel and eternally disastrous.Written by
Visually inventive by any standards; inventive narrative by Soviet standards
The story told by The Cranes are Flying is not, admittedly, all that original. Young lovers are separated by war; bad things happen to both. We've seen it many times before.
Nonetheless, we haven't seen it filmed this well, with bold shots that take liberties to emphasize separation, or destruction, or hopelessness. All the more remarkable coming from the Soviet Union, and reason to conclude that Tarkovsky is not the last word in modern-era Soviet cinema.
I was reading Chekhov's "Three Sisters" the other day, and chanced upon what may be the meaning of the title of this film. In Act 2, Masha objects to the notion that we must live our lives without meaning or understanding:
"MASHA: Surely mankind must believe in something, or at least seek for the truth, otherwise life is just emptiness, emptiness. To live and not to know why the cranes are flying, why children are born, why there are stars in the sky. Either you must know why it is you live, or everything is trivial - mere pointless nonsense."
Likewise, Veronika has a hard time believing that the war, and her and others' sufferings, have been pointless. Better to assign a meaning, to live as if one's life is significant, and not to give in to despair. It is perhaps this thinking that prompts her to her final act in the film.
BTW as a minor correction to one other comment here--there may be a pattern of V's in the film, though I hadn't noticed them myself. But the first letter of Veronika's name is not a further instance of this; in the Cyrillic alphabet, her name begins with a letter which looks like an English "B".
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