Sep 10, 2007

16th Sept : Ballad of a Soldier

Ballad of a Soldier

A Film By Grigori Chukhrai
Nominated for Oscar. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations
Year :1959 Country : Russia
Run time : 89 minutes ; Russian with English Sub titles.
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium, Ganapathi , Coimbatore
16th Sept 2007 , 5.45 pm ; Call
94430 39630
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Russia's fight against the Nazi war machine cost that country 20 million lives. Ballad of a Soldier takes a simple premise — one young soldier, Alyosha 's journey home to visit his mother — and shapes it into a polished lens. Through that lens Ballad projects those 20 million, and at the focal point burns a humane, non-dogmatic meditation on the incalculably tragic cost of war.

We are told at the outset that Alyosha is killed at the front, never to return to his mother, to Shura, or to anyone else again. Ballad of a Soldier's conclusion strikes a single, clear tone with one of the most poignant of wartime questions — what if? What if Alyosha, decent and honorable and deserving of a full life, had not died in the war? What could he, and by extension some 20 million Alyoshas, have become? What could this everyday hero have contributed if he'd been allowed to fulfill his promise? Ballad doesn't answer the question. Instead it tells us that Alyosha dies a "simple Russian soldier" (a citizen of a country, not an ideology) because he never had the time or opportunity to be anything else.

Technically rich yet possessing a refining simplicity, Ballad of a Soldier is a quietly powerful work that could have diminished into soapy melodrama or government-stamped rhetoric. Instead, director/co-writer Grigori Chukhrai delivered a personal ode, one indeed as emotive and straight-shooting as a ballad, to his own postwar generation. He did so with then-distinctive attention to varying responses war brings out in individual people, with moments of unmistakable (and now sweetly chaste) sexual heat, and without resorting to the clichés, stilted symbols, or pompous phraseology that did so much harm to Soviet cinema.

Grigori Chukhrai

Grigori Naumovich Chukhrai (Russian: Григорий Наумович Чухрай; May 23, 1921--October 28, 2001) was a prominent film director and screenwriter in the former Soviet Union. He is the father of director Pavel Chukhrai.

He was born in Melitopol in the Zaporizhia Oblast of Ukraine. A decorated veteran of World War II, Chukhrai's wartime experiences profoundly affected him and the majority of his films were connected with events of the War. At war's end, he studied filmmaking at the Soviet State Film School and then developed his craft as a director's assistant at the Kiev Film Studio. By the mid 1950s, he began writing and directing his own films, gaining cinematic recognition outside the Soviet Union at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival with his film Sorok pervyj (The Forty-first).

In 1959, Chukhrai co-wrote and directed his greatest work, Ballad of a Soldier. A story of love and the tragedy of war made without the usual Soviet propaganda, the film received great acclaim at home earning the prestigious Lenin Prize. It was heralded internationally for both its story and cinematic technique and at Cannes in 1960 the film was awarded a special jury prize for "high humanism and outstanding quality." Ballad of a Soldier overcame the Cold War barrier and premiered in the United States in 1960 at the San Francisco International Film Festival in San Francisco, California. The film won the Festival's Golden Gate Award, for Best Picture and for Best Director for Grigori Chukhrai. Playing worldwide, the following year it earned the BAFTA Award for Best Film. Grigori Chukhrai and script co-writer Valentin Yezhov were nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay.

Chukhrai's next film, released in 1961, was titled Chistoye nebo (Clear Skies) and told the story of a Soviet pilot who survived Nazi imprisonment during the war but was later accused of being a spy. In 1984, at age 63, Grigori Chukhrai directed his final film. He wrote a book of war memoirs and in 1994, for his lifetime contribution to film, Chukhrai was given a Nika Award, the Russian film industry's equivalent of an Oscar.

Grigori Chukhrai died of heart failure in Moscow in 2001 at the age of eighty.

1 comment:

Anil J Singh said...

This is a great work by Grigori Naumovich Chukhrai. The best part of this film is the simplicity of the story. Being an ex-soldier I can feel what this 2-minute-meeting with his mother means to Alyosha. His feelings towards everyone he came in contact with, is understandable.The director has done excellent work portraying that with amazing clarity. Thanks Konangal.