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Ballada o soldate / Ballad of a soldier (Grigoriy Chukhay, 1959)

A young war hero gets five days of leave to visit his mother in his home village but gets sidetracked by the people he meets on the journey.

The film is profoundly moving and once the slightly pathetic tone of the story is set firm it becomes the highly emotional journey that will leave every viewer in tears. It's heart-wrenching when the two lovers realize that they truly have found each other the moment they have to separate, possibly forever.

The naiveté and stubbornness of the protagonist is illustrated by many small stories in the beginning: his willingness to give up his material goods for his new-found friends, his support for the crippled, the elderly and his dedication to at least hug his mother one last time. It's also his youth that makes him ignore the terrible facts of war - and although people around him die off like flies he seems oblivious to any kind of danger. When the voice-over concludes that we have lost a human being who might have been remarkable, I felt deeply sorry for the loss.

The girl was quite amazing to watch, too - she has a magic and an innocence that was even more believable than that of the protagonist. 

The camerawork is beautiful and impressive - there are many creative techniques at work. The first scene shows the soldier chased by a tank and ends with the image upside down. It's a very simple, but extremely effective camera move. Another beautiful construction is the overlay of the woman's image with the birch forest - again a straightforward idea, but so well weaved into the story that it's a great addition to the film as a whole.


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Before the battle scene commences Broderick walks in row of soldiers and talks over the pictures of the gathering…