Ballad of a Soldier
War | Russian with English subtitles | 88 minutes
On the Eastern Front during World War II, Private Alyosha Skvortsov single-handedly destroys two attacking German tanks. The commanding general wants to award Alyosha a citation. Alyosha asks the general if in lieu of the citation he could visit his mother and fix her leaking roof. The compassionate general agrees on the condition Alyosha returns in six days. Alyosha’s comrade, Private Pavlov, asks him to deliver two bars of soap to his wife who happens to live in Alyosha’s town. At the train station Alyosha helps and encourages Vasya, a soldier who lost his leg in the war, who is fearful his wife will reject him. Alyosha beams as he sees the soldier’s wife embrace her returning husband. Hitching a ride on a freight train, Alyosha encounters Shura, a frightened young woman also heading home. They share many close calls dodging the train guards but also manage to fall in love. However, they part at the train terminus, each going their own way. Alyosha delivers the soap to Pavlov’s wife but is shocked to find out she married another man. Alyosha finally arrives home but the six-day deadline permits him to spend only minutes with his mother. With a last embrace he leaves. His tearful mother vows to wait for his return. The voiceover at the end of the film says, “He could have gone far in life if he had lived; he will always be remembered simply as a Russian soldier.”
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 93%
- Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Screenplay (Valentin Ezhov, Grigoriy Chukhray)
- BAFTA Awards: Winner, Best Film; Best Foreign Actor (Vladimir Ivashov)
- Cannes Film Festival: Nominated, Best Actor (Vladimir Ivashov)
- San Francisco Film Festival: Winner, Best Film; Best Director (Grigoriy Chukhray)
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The soldier encounters small adventures, yes. But in the context in which they have been arranged by Grigori Chukhrai, who directed and helped write the script, they become the moving episodes, the stanzas, in a profound and cumulative lament for the disorder, the grief and the frustration of people borne down upon by war. It is with such lyric touches that the deathless beauty in the tragedy is traced.
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