When a young Soviet man answers the call to defend his country in World War II, his girlfriend attempts to maintain dedication to his love even as she struggles with the effects of the war on her personal life.
Writer(s): Viktor Rozov
Director(s): Mikhail Kalatozov
Production Co.(s): Mosfilm
In The Cranes Are Flying, the main character, Veronika, is a young Soviet woman who shares a deeply reciprocated love with her fiancé, Boris. Their love is joyous, hopeful, and approved of by everyone in both of their familieswith the notable exception of Boris's cousin, Mark, whose behavior suggests a personal interest in Veronika that he is willing to keep to himself as long as Boris is around.
Shortly after we meet the young lovers, news of war with Germany spreads across Moscow, including the factory where Boris works, which is quickly abuzz with talk of conscription. In the spirit of noble self-sacrifice, Boris volunteers to take up arms and defend his country. Mark, on the other hand, obtains a deferment from the draft based (purportedly) on his artistic talent as a pianist.
On the day that Boris joins the throng of his fellow Muscovites headed to war, Veronika is delayed and prevented from seeing him off at the assembly station. When she finally arrives, they look for each other desperately among the chaotic crowd, seeking one last chance to express their love and dedication before being separated by distance and time. But Fate does not look upon them kindly, and Boris departs without their being able to share a final goodbye.
Soon thereafter, Moscow finds itself in the grip of war. The streets that Boris and Veronika ran along playfully at the start of the film now sport the artifacts of armed conflict. And when Veronika's parents are killed in an air raid and their apartment is destroyed, she accepts an invitation to live with Boris's family.
Another air raid shortly thereafter leaves her alone with Mark in the family's apartmentby virtue, in part, of her refusal to seek shelter from the raid. As bombs fall nearby, she takes temporary refuge in his armsthe opening he has been looking for to declare his passion. When she becomes aware of his intentions, she attempts to fight him off and flee but fails in a cacophonous scene suggesting rape.
For reasons not made clear by the storytellers, the two are soon married. But even as Mark announces the pending marriage to the family, Veronika's face betrays the shame and bitterness of feeling forced into the marriage against her will. Why is she agreeing to the marriage? We are not told. But it is clear that the man to whom she will soon vow fidelity is not the same man who owns her love.