Joseph Stalin's terror regime put an end to all creative groundbreaking movie making in the Soviet Union. All the films was purely propaganda, that only showed Lenin and Stalin's greatness, and during World War II this was used to sends millions of troops to the front, even more brutal than the Tsar Nicholas III did in the previous war. It was first after Stalin's death and Khrushchev's famous speech which criticized the Stalinism that the Russian cinema started to grown once more. And the subject that was brought up was the over twenty million soldiers and civilian that was killed during the war. This brought many director to make anti-war films, so that the soviet people finally got to morn over their loved ones.
The first film to do so was Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes are Flying in 1957. It tells the story about a young couple, who's barely in their twenties. Veronika and Boris are made for each other. But the war burst out, and Boris is enlisted, and have no time to say goodbye to his girlfriend. While he is away, his cousin Mark falls for Veronika, and since Boris is away she thinks it's her duty to marry Mark, because she hasn't heard from Boris and even assume the worst, and through the whole war she thinks of nothing but her lost love of her life Boris, whom no one knows is alive or dead. She volunteers as a nurse in Siberia, in hopes to find Boris among the wounded.
The Cranes are Flying isn't that we can call an original film in sense of plot, compared to the Americans they are twenty-thirty years behind. But the cinematography and use of hand-held camera is so superb. But it's also thanks to the good acting and the realistic art directions, which makes it more authentic then most of the anti-war films of it's time. And all the sad feelings, Veronikas grief and longings is so emotionally touching. It is indeed a very good anti-war film, that we can feel with our whole body. And it was the first in line of other russian anti-war films such as: Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood, Chukhrai's Ballad of a Soldier and Bondarchuk's War and Peace. All of them perfect anti-war films in any way, with no heroism nor any victory, just loss.