I really enjoyed watching the first half of The Cranes Are Flying. I feel like we’ve all seen so many WWII movies that I’m pretty desensitized to them, but certain scenes really struck me as both very well-done and surprisingly moving. I think my favorite scene so far was when Veronica realizes that her parents were killed and runs up the stairs of her destroyed apartment building. I knew exactly what was going to happen and in a way the action of the scene seems pretty trite, but for some reason seeing the same staircase in ruins and a huge gaping hole on the top floor where the apartment had been worked really well for me.
I think I just can’t get over how well filmed the movie is. And here’s the weird thing: I honestly can’t think of a Hollywood parallel. So many American movies made in the 50s address WWII, but I can’t name any that are set during WWII and treat the subject so well. Casablanca is maybe the most famous movie set during WWII, and while still set abroad it doesn’t do a whole lot to bring home the terror of air raids and the destruction in Europe and Russia. Most of our contemporaneous movies focus on the soldiers instead of the civilian aspect, reflecting the general American experience.So while a lot of the movie really struck some chords with me, I should also say that some shots seemed very outdated. During the second air raid when Veronica and Mark have their big moment, the shots of his exaggerated facial expressions kind of ruined the scene for me. In fact, it seemed ridiculous to a lot of people, because quite a few of us laughed. But still, that scene was striking like the first air raid scene, with the lighting and the music and the shattered glass everywhere the emphasis was definitely on feelings of vulnerability and sometimes-desperate resistance in the face of so much destruction. I’m excited to see the rest of the movie, and to see if other emotions are portrayed as effectively.