Film #14 in the World War II Marathon!
Written By: Grigori Chukhrai & Valentin Ezhov
Directed By: Grigori Chukhrai
I have the suspicion that I came away from Ballada O Soldate with a different reading than most. I won’t deny that an undercurrent of anti-war sentiment is present and is expressed poignantly in the films final moments. However that is not the main theme that I took away from Ballada O Soldate. As I made my way through the film I kept thinking on and about youth, what defines it and why that innocence is such a desired and ultimately forgotten quality. I believe Ballada O Soldate attempts to showcase youth at its finest, raging against the tides of maturity threatening to overwhelm it.
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am a jaded fellow. Somewhere along the line I lost hope, I gave up on my youthful ideals. Whether my innocence was taken from me or I left it behind voluntarily I can’t say. What I can tell you is that Ballada O Soldate was one of the most joyous movie watching experiences I have ever partaken in. My usually jaded sentiments were tossed to the wayside, replaced by a longing for the simplicity of Alyosha’s world view. In his world there is simple good and evil, black and white. Around every corner a good time is waiting to be had. It is okay to be scared, it is okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to be young, to be alive, to not know what is coming next and to allow your raw emotions to guide you. I had a lot of fun watching Alyosha, and then Shura, display all of these youthful characteristics. I had more fun taking in those two characters than I can accurately describe.
I also believe that to be the next most important theme in Ballada O Soldate, that fun must be had when you can have it. War is not the ideal place to have fun, but even in that situation you must try to get the most out of it or you have lost sight of what it means to be alive. War will drain you of your essence, it will make you less than what you once were. You can see that in the faces of people that Alyosha encounters, but you can see their spirits return as Alyosha rubs off on them. Alyosha doesn’t enjoy being at war, but he is a hero because of the attitude he takes, an attitude that helps all those around him and keeps him as a reminder of what the people can’t allow the war to take away from them.
I know I haven’t talked much about the technical aspect of Ballada O Soldate, but it is a beautiful picture to take in. The score adds to every scene, the acting is really quite wonderful and the camera creates some stunning shots. The movie is always filmed at odd angles, the camera will enter a scene from an odd vantage point or in the middle of a scene it will settle in an odd placement. I don’t know if I can properly express how well made the film was and how striking it is visually without noting how it is put together so simply. I know people are tired of hearing me call “this or that” simple, but that really is the best way to describe the technical aspect of Ballada O Soldate. It is understated technically and in that simplicity brilliance is born.
It’s not often that a scene in a movie sweeps you off your feet. When that scene comes along you know you are watching something special. I had a feeling that Ballada O Soldate was something special, but when it reached the scene with Pavlov’s father I knew I was watching something special. That is the type of scene that reaffirms why I love cinema and makes my love of cinema feel worthwhile. The same applies to Ballada O Soldate as a whole, it’s a rare gem of a film that expresses in its entirety why I love cinema so much. If you haven’t seen the hidden treasure that is Ballada O Soldate then do yourself a favor and add it to your queue, you won’t regret it.