Clare's Criterion Collection

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Ballad Of A Soldier – Review # 13

on December 8, 2013

Spine # 148

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • New digital transfer
  • Interview with director Grigori Chukhrai and stars Vladimir Ivashov and Zhanna Prokhorenko, conducted after a preview screening in New York
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Optimal image quality; RSDL dual-layer edition

    New cover by William Logan and Amy Hoisington

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.

Review

The film opens to a bleak landscape and sadly, the all too familiar story of loss during war. I have had a few days to replay this film over in my mind and when I think about our young soldier, Alyosha, a word that continually appears is loyalty.

He is loyal to his country.  Aged only 19 he is fighting for Russia during WWII, the time period for this film.  He is a hero and his reward is a commendation from the General, though he forgoes this honour.  Why you may ask, that I cannot tell.  In order to find out you must watch the film.

He shows loyalty to his Mother.  He is in a dangerous place, the Russian Front fighting the Germans yet he wants to leave, not as a deserter to the surrounding horrors, no, he wants to leave so he can go home and help his Mother, the roof is leaking and needs to be fixed.

Loyalty is not his only endearing quality.  Throughout the film he shows kindness to others, going out of his way to help even though the clock is ticking.  He even found the time for a little romance, once the over-dramatic young lady (Shura), who I would have pushed from the moving train, calmed down.  The train guard provides a few laughs and even though he lied I felt no malice towards him.  It is due to his actions that a memorable quote is made:

“It’s so pleasant when you think badly of someone, only to discover that he’s good”.

As Alyosha’s journey continues we encounter everyday civilians going about their lives.  On the surface it all seems quite normal yet there are subtle reminders that not too far away a war is raging, be it a wounded soldier or a lady selling her possessions in order to survive

Later in the film there is a scene that reminds me how destructive man can be.  The train passes by a forest of birch trees, very similar to the one seen in Ivan’s Childhood.  As a nature lover, this is a beautiful sight.  It made me think about all the senseless destruction man has done, not only to forests but to the planet as a whole.  In my mind this is an example of the woeful disregard for life shown before, during and sadly since WWII.

I immensely enjoyed the few days we spent with our young soldier.  This is a simple but highly emotive film and one I wholly recommend to you all.

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