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Ballad of a Soldier 1959 (USSR)

The late 1950s through the early 1960s was when the Soviet Union was beginning to thaw out from the Stalinist era, where filmmakers decided to express their experiences of their younger lives during the Stalinist era, specifically World War II. Even though the Soviet Union was thawing out, they still had no relationship with the United States, and more conflict was about to occur, starting with the Cuban Missile Crisis a few years later. In addition, there were more conflicts against Khrushchev when he denounced Stalin a few years earlier. Those instances gave Chruckhray to use World War II as a metaphor to express that the Soviet Union is still not a place nobody wants to live in.


This was a revolutionary war film for the Soviet Union because the cinematography and plot were so realistic that everything about how the citizens were treated during the war and even when this film was made seemed believable. The characters were receiving unfair benefits from work where they were either on furlough or working long hours and not being paid, and others were being kept away from their families while fighting the Germans.


As the story and conflict were fully established, this film transitioned to an adventure film where two characters escaped to a moving freight train to locate family, where the characters could not see them for a long time due to travel restrictions and the outbreak of the war. It then transitions to anti-communist ideology when the soldier, Alyosha, exhibits goodness and kindness when the goal is established, for him to go back to his wife and mom and the other woman to go back to her husband.


Since this film was unique, it received a positive reception at festivals such as Cannes, San Francisco, London, Teheran, and Milan. This was all because he made this mother-son story a big adventure for the characters to reunite, where all these techniques were used to tell the story. This film has also competed against filmmakers Fellini, Bergman, Antonioni, Buñuel, and several American blockbuster films.


What makes this film so unique is that this and two other Soviet films were part of a Soviet-American exchange. This film had a solid and concrete story about how life was during the Stalin era and that this was the first attempt to share to American viewers that our society needs a wake-up call on what is going on the other side of the Cold War and how they interpret life compared to American filmmakers. Rather than films about a murder or love story, these films in the Soviet Union are basically “missions” for characters to achieve their goals of reuniting with their husband or mother.


In modern times, viewers see this film to be globally significant because the filmmaker of this film actively avoided Soviet Propaganda as much as possible except for one instance when one of the characters brought up the negative labor conditions. This also taught viewers that the Cold War was not dark for a while, but there were moments when there was a thaw and other times when it was not thawed, incredibly a few years after this film was released when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. It was not till the 1980s when they would be another thaw and for the US to see any more Soviet films.

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