The Cranes Are Flying is the only Soviet-era film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Director Mikhail Kalatozov’s shockingly intimate camera captures the wartime struggles of Veronika (Tatiana Samoilova), a woman left behind by her boyfriend, Boris (Aleksey Batalov), after he leaves to fight on the front lines of World War II. Her resilience in the face of a crumbling world, MIA lover and forced marriage to her rapist were hailed as an empathetic and visceral depiction of the Russian everywoman in a way most that byproducts of Stalin-era cinema hadn’t up until that point.
Films about the homefront experience of women during war are innumerable now, but the brilliantly intimate editing and focus that catapulted Samoilova into international stardom still resonate.
The new Criterion edition includes a 2K restoration, interviews with the director and film scholars, and a number of documentaries and short features.