Four classic Soviet films to add to your watchlist!

Four classic Soviet films to add to your watchlist!
01 November 2023

One of the most underrated resources for language learners, Soviet cinema provides the perfect opportunity to improve your understanding of spoken Russian through language immersion and reflects a poignant time in Russian and Eastern European history. Here are four classic Soviet films to add to your watchlist!

The Cranes Are Flying, «Куда летят журавли», (1957).

Released in 1957, Mikhail Kalatozov’s ‘The Cranes Are Flying’ is an emotionally devastating film, which narrates the lived experience of young people throughout the Soviet Union at the time of the Great Patriotic War. Starring well-known Soviet actors, Aleksey Batalov and Tatiana Samoilova, the film follows lovers Boris and Veronika, whose tragic love story is echoed in the motif of cranes flying over the city of Moscow. A brutal and nuanced insight into the plight of young women, the film approaches themes of broken marriage, desperation and independence with a beautifully compassionate voice. 

I Walk around Moscow, «Я шагаю по Москве», (1964).

A much lighter film, Georgiy Daneliya’s ‘I walk around Moscow’ is a simple and slightly naive film, which follows aspiring writer Volodya, Aleksei Loktev, on his adventures around Moscow with new friend, Kolya,(Nikita Mikhalkov), in tow . The film’s message of optimism and finding hope even in the darkest of circumstances is comparable to Frank Capra’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ of 1946; immortalising a period in which ordinary people were left searching for meaning in the Post-War world. Filled with optimistic hope for the future in 1964, the film remains relevant to young people throughout Russia and ex-Soviet countries. 

Ivan the Terrible, «Иван Грозный», (1944).

An Eisenstein classic, Ivan the Terrible is a historical drama, commissioned by Stalin himself in 1944. Split into two parts, the second instalment was censored by the dictator in 1958, and the makings of the third destroyed after the death of its director in 1948. The film itself is an epic biopic of the life and rule of Ivan as he attempts to solidify his position within a court of conspirators and traitors. An insight into the Soviet Union under Stalin and its approach to pre-revolutionary history and narratives, it’s well worth the watch. 

Moscow does not believe in tears, «Москва слезам не верит», (1979).

Its title based upon a Russian proverb which encourages people to solve their own problems rather than complaining, this film has remained a firm favourite amongst Russian audiences. It reflects the lived experience of many women throughout the Soviet Period with a rapid evolution in attitudes and societal expectations. 

A romantic drama centred around the experience of the “Soviet everywoman”, (James von Geldern, Seventeen Moments in Soviet History), this film explores the narratives of three young women from the countryside, who emigrate to Moscow to find both opportunities and husbands. However, not every woman finds what she was looking for, as the protagonist Katya,(Vera Alentova), is left partnerless and pregnant. The film follows the protagonist attempting to win over her ideal man, Gosha, (Aleksey Batalov), and the harsh realities faced by young women throughout the Soviet Union. 

Darcie Peters is currently a student of Russian language at Liden and Denz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts
If you have just recently taken up Russian, you've probably encountered a lot of difficulties already. The pronunciation is strange (at first), ...
Read more
Why do you study Russian? To those who ask me, I always give the same answer: it’s hard not to be fascinated by this country’s culture and ...
Read more
Some time ago, we interviewed our student Nathan Paul, who studied Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg in 2018 and 2019. Almost two ...
Read more
Much like literature and film, Russian theatre is extremely fertile ground for both research and writing, and so, in order to retain a sense of ...
Read more