Grigory Chukhrai’s Ballad of a Soldier, a deliriously romantic story of a six-day pass, is a Russian classic, a simple, poetic tale where the sentimental streak and patriotic idealism common to the Soviet formula is humanized with vivid characters and tender direction. I survey the film for Turner Classic Movies Online this month.
Think of Ballad of a Soldier (1959) as the poetic odyssey of an accidental hero through the ideals of the Soviet state pulling together in times of hardship, with a few raised eyebrows at the few shirkers and unfaithful spouses on the homefront. It’s beautifully photographed (life during wartime has rarely looked so beautiful) but it’s also filled with visions of poverty and hardship. And there is also a poignancy to his journey, his romantic interlude and his all-too-brief reunion with his mother: the narration that opens the film explains to the audience that Alyosha does not survive the war. This is his farewell tour and he lives it to its fullest, meeting the world and everyone in it with an open heart and a generous spirit.
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