There is nothing we can tell you about war that you haven’t already heard. Young boys sent to fight battles for old men. Poverty, oppression, bloodshed, sacrifice, bravery. All these aspects have been repeatedly discussed, by Bob Marley, Mark Twain and even George Bush (who better, eh?). Grigoriy Chukhray’s Ballad of a Soldier focuses on love rather than on war.
Alyosha Skvortsov (Vladimir Ivashov), a young soldier, is forced to go to war. In the name of his motherland but against his mother’s wish. He blows up 2 German tanks in his first battle, more by accident than strategy, and is declared a hero. His officer wants to honor him with a medal, but dear Alyosha only wants to go home and fix its leaking roof. You will know right off the bat that Alyosha is a lovable character, a child asked too soon to grow up. He is granted 6 days of leave, which he takes instead of the Medal.
Chukhray allows us to look at the other end of war, far behind the trenches, filled with weeping women and disillusioned children. Hopping from one train to another, our Alyosha encounters various people (and falls in love). Ballad of a Soldier is written superbly and delivered in brilliant fashion. The camera follows the character’s actions and is cut crisply, focusing more on the dialogues. The soldiers, with their eerie sense of humor will make you smile. For a second you might even wonder, how can folks who are on the verge of death still be so full of life? The music is breath-taking, it sets the right mood for every scene and fulfills the film’s tone as a ballad. Actors Vladimir Ivashov and Zhanna Prokhorenko (who plays Shura) are charming throughout. Ivashov’s portrayal of adorable Alyosha is particularly memorable.
Why should you watch this film?
Ballad of a Soldier brings the individual soldier’s life to light, pride crippled, childhood stolen and love made hopeless. Its Russian humor will disarm the audience and its characters will make you fall in love. A film that deserves its mention at the Kremlin.
-By Gargi Kowli