Dawns Here Are Quiet, The (1972): Rostosky’s WWII Melodrama, Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominee

Stanislav Rostotsky directed The Dawns Here Are Quiet, based on Boris Vasilyev’s famous novel of the same name.

The film, nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. deals with antiwar themes, while focusing on garrison of Russian female soldiers in World War II.

Set in Karelia (near Finland), and shot near Ruskeala, the tale opens in color, with a girl taking off her motorcycle helmet, while camping with her friends.

It then shifts to summer 1942, in the midst of World War II, behind the Soviet frontlines on the Eastern Front.

Having asked for soldiers who don’t drink and fraternize with women, Company Sergeant Major Vaskov is assigned a group of young female anti-aircraft gunners in a railway station far from the front line.

Not used to commanding women, Vaskov clashes with them over daily issues. However, during air raid, Rita Osyanina, shoots down an enemy aircraft and is decorated for her deeds.

Dialogue and flashbacks in color reveal the women’s backstories. Rita, for example, sneaks out food back to her mother and baby, who are not far from the front. One day, Rita, having secretly carried rations to her family, encounters two German paratroopers on her way back to the garrison.

Vaskov chooses five volunteers: Rita, Zhenya, Lisa, Galya and Sonia, to embark with him on a mission to eliminate them. They cross the marshland to intercept the Germans but the going is slow and treacherous.

When they finally reach the location, they realize there are 16 German paratroopers instead of two. The soldiers come up with the idea to bluff the paratroopers into thinking there are many civilians in their path, by cutting down trees and lighting fires.

Though the plan almost fails, Zhenya’s audacity in jumping into the river convinces the paratroopers to take a detour through the forest. Vaskov then sends Lisa back to the base for reinforcements.

The group left in the forest prepare to reroute to avoid direct contact with German troops. But they engage in guerrilla warfare with the Germans, in which Sonia is killed by knife and Galya is shot and dies from her wounds.

In order to create a diversion, Vaskov leads the Germans away from the remaining two soldiers, firing at them with his revolver. Vaskov is shot in the arm but manages to escape from the Germans. Ralizing the reinforcements have not come, he hallucinates about Lisa, who tells him that she failed because she went too fast, drowning in the wet marshland.

He comes across Rita and Zhenya, but after a tearful reunion realizes that they have disobeyed his orders to retreat. He searches in his bag for grenade to mount suicide attack, but finds that the girls have taken the detonator out. Although he threatens to court martial them for disobeying orders, they refuse to leave and instead prepare to ambush the Germans.

During engagement, Rita is injured by shrapnel from grenade and tells Zhenya to leave her. Realizing they are cornered, Zhenya disobeys Vaskov’s orders to cover them and taunts and lures the Germans away through the forest, and is killed.

Vaskov stays with Rita to treat her wounds, promising to take her back to base. She asks him to take care of her son in the neighboring village. He leaves to find a way out, giving her the revolver but soon comes back to find that Rita has shot herself.

The rest of the women of the regiment, who have come to rescue the group, find Vaskov before he passes out from exhaustion.

Thirty years after the war ends, Vaskov visits the battle area with an officer, implied to be Rita’s son. The girl from the beginning arrives with flowers from her boyfriend, only to see they are at a memorial for the five female soldiers that died there. She leaves the flowers at the memorial and the three pay their respects.

DVD

The 2004 Ruscico release includes a documentary, “Women’s War,” based on interviews with actresses Irina Shevchuk, Yelena Drapeko, and Yekaterina Markova.

Recycling:

The film was remade in 2015 by director Renat Davletyarov.

The book was filmed the Chinese TV series in 2005 directed by Mao Weining.

Cast
Andrey Martynov as Senior Sergeant Vaskov
Yelena Drapeko as Lisa Britschkina
Yekaterina Markova as Galya Chetvertak (as Ye. Markova)
Olga Ostroumova as Zhenya Komelkova
Irina Shevchuk as Rita Osyanina
Irina Dolganova as Sonia Gurvich (as I. Dolganova)
Lyudmila Zaytseva as Sergeant Kiryanova
Alla Meshcheryakova as Maria Nikiforovna
Igor Kostolevsky as Misha