Mikhail Kalatazov: The Cranes are Flying (1957)
Description: The overwhelming emotions of the war are captured in this scene when the heroine, played by Tatiana Samoilova, fails to find her boyfriend, played by the great actor Batalov, who will die on the front before they ever meet again. The chaos of the crowds in the background, and their very individual grief and agitation, form the backdrop of the early days of war.
Sergei Bondarchuk: The Fate of a Man (1959)
Description: The hero, played by Bondarchuk, is a simple Russian man whose life is crippled by the war. His wife and daughter are killed when their village is bombed, his only son is killed in action days before the war ends, and he spends much of the war himself in a German prison camp. Contrary to official treatment that saw prisoners as cowards who had not sacrificed their lives for Stalin and motherland, the hero Andrei Sokolov shows a perseverance and quiet courage that all Russians could identify with. This classic scene shows him defying the merciless camp director and downing vodka so that he can bring some food home to his bunkmates.
Grigorii Chukhrai: Ballad of a Soldier (1959)
Description: The bitter humor and emotional power of the film are captured in this clip. As a reward for battlefield heroism, the simple boy Alyosha is allowed to visit his home village for a week. The journey, prolonged by the many kindnesses he performs, last so long that he has only a moment to spend with his mother before he begins the return trip. Her grief when she discovers that she can only hug him briefly is compounded by the epilogue that follows, in which we discover that Alyosha is killed in battle before he can ever see her again.
Ivan Lukinskii: The Soldier Ivan Brovkin (1955)
Description: Brovkin was a movie of the peacetime army. It featured a young but unlucky kolkhoz boy drafted into the army, who begins as a failure but ends up with a promotion. Brovkin was a benign, and thus unusual, army movie in that it showed no war. Otherwise it appealed to a set of values familiar to Soviet viewers. The war films of post-1956 would soon shatter those expectations.