Ballad of a Soldier: Soviet Film Is International Hit

One of the most honored films in Russian history, Grigori Chukhrai’s “Ballad of a Soldier” was also one of the few Russian films to be seen and appreciated by wide audiences overseas.

The story perse is deceptively simple, centering on a young soldier named Ayosha (Vladimir Ivashov) who gets a leave and goes home. But the film offers truly profound insights on the horror and absurdity of war, and does it with lyrical realism.

Though particular in context, the film comes across as a universal statement about war, family, and love. The opening narration– “This is the road to town. Those who leave from our village and those who come home depart and return on this road—immediately establishes that we are about to see a road movie that is at once concrete and allegorical.

Journeying home on a ten-day leave, Ayosha encounters a variety of people who embody the frustration and grief of wartime life. Among his encounters are a legless soldier frightened at the prospect of going home; a comrade’s wife living with another man out of loneliness, a homeless, wandering girl who escapes from the freight car of a military train.

This last encounter leads to a touching quasi-romantic attachment for a brief couple of hours. By the time the young man reaches home, he has only a short time with his loved ones.

For many viewers, the climactic, most touching scene is toward the end of the saga, when the soldier embraces his mother (Antonia Maximova), after a long, long cross-country trip.

Credits

Mosfilm production
Director: Grigori Chukhrai
Screenplay: Valentin Yoshov and Chukhrai
Cinematography (b/w): Vladimir Nikolayev, Era Saveleva
Music: Michael Siv

Running time: 86 minutes