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Ballad of a Soldier (The Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Russian soldier Alyosha Skvortsov is granted a visit with his mother after he singlehandedly fends off two enemy tanks. As he journeys home, Alyosha encounters the devastation of his war-torn country, witnesses glimmers of hope among the people, and falls in love. With its poetic visual imagery, Grigori Chukhrai's Ballad of a Soldier is an unconventional meditation on the effects of war, and a milestone in Russian cinema.


Grigory Chukhraj's poetic odyssey of an accidental hero on a six-day pass is a sentimental journey through the ideals of the Soviet state in World War II. Vladimir Ivashov is the fresh-faced signalman whose trip from the Russian front to visit his white-haired mother becomes a series of detours as he stops to help the loyal comrades, fellow soldiers, and salt-of-the-earth civilians (as well as a few shirkers and scoundrels) he meets along the way. On a transport train he even falls in love with a pretty young stowaway, a feisty blond girl-next-door on her way to visit a wounded boyfriend. Delicately photographed and gently paced, this deliriously romantic road movie is undeniably Soviet in its celebration of patriotism and collectivism, but Chukhraj transcends politics with delightfully vivid characters and a deft mix of comedy, melodrama, and romance. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

  • Interview With Director Grigori Chukhrai and Stars Vladimir Ivashov and Zhanna Prokhorenko, Conducted After a Preview Screening in New York

Product Details

  • Actors: Vladimir Ivashov, Zhanna Prokhorenko, Antonina Maksimova, Nikolay Kryuchkov, Evgeniy Urbanskiy
  • Directors: Grigoriy Chukhray
  • Writers: Grigoriy Chukhray, Valentin Ezhov
  • Producers: M. Chernova
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Russian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 30, 2002
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000633SB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,664 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ballad of a Soldier (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Alesha, the protagonist of this classic Russian film, is a good-hearted peasant boy fighting for his family and homeland. When he becomes an accidental hero, he is rewarded by leavetime, which he hopes to spend at his mother's home in a distant village. On his train journey through the wartorn Soviet countryside, he meets and falls in love with a young woman. Through a series of misadventures and delays, Alesha arrives home with little time to visit with his mother. Duty calls, and he must return to the front. This movie is both touching and tragic, and is beloved by Russian people, too many of whom lost sons, daughters, spouses and sweethearts during the Great Patriotic War. How many mothers, like Alesha's, waited and watched toward the west for a soldier who never returned? "Ballad of a Soldier" is a tribute to those lost loved ones who remain in their survivor's memories forever youthful, handsome, innocent, and noble. To deny Soviet citizens this human emotion by relegating the film to mere "propaganda" is cynical and saddening.
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Format: VHS Tape
Movies don't get any better than this one. A young Russian soldier (Alyosha) almost accidentally becomes a hero. To reward him, the General gives him a 4 day leave so he go home to repair his mother's roof before rainy season. The movie is about his eventful trip home. You see the horrors of war in the people Alyosha meets on his trip home. The war itself is never far away-you can hear the steady roar of cannon throughout.
This is also one of the most beautiful love stories you will ever see. One of the people he meets on his trip home is a beautiful young girl named Shura. The scene on the train with the vast birch forest passing by in the background is the single most beautiful love scene ever filmed. No nudity, no sex. You long for the two to kiss to consumate their love.
This is not so much an anti-war film as a film about the great human tragedy that results from war. (I'm not sure, but I think there is a difference.) Be sure to get the sub-titled version of the movie. I've seen both dubbed and sub-titled and the sub-titled is far superior.
I can't recommend this movie high enough. This, along with Fiddler on the Roof and The Wind and the Lion, are my all-time favorites and I wouldn't want to try to pick a favorite amongst the three. But if I did, I think Ballad of a Soldier would get the nod.
By the way, you WILL cry! I remember seeing it at a movie theater in Cambridge Mass. in the mid-seventies. Several people leaving at the end of the movie were visibly crying while proclaiming that they never cry at movies.
Mike Porter
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Format: VHS Tape
The bottom line of this underrated masterpiece (well received upon its initial release in the 50s to be later dismissed as "Soviet propaganda" by a western public who often confounded cynism with truth) is that sometimes you've just to do your duty whatever the circumstances, but this doesn't means you'll lose your soul. It's the difference between blind obedience and conscious duty - something that today is often difficult to tell apart. The story is simple. Aliosha, a young Red Army "frontnik" almost by chance saves the life of many of his comrades. As award, he's granted a 4 day leave so he can get to see his mother back home - incidentally, this was the only way a Red Army's soldier could hope to get ANY kind of leave! During the trip he meet a young girl, and the two fall in love. But time is running out, and the war is never too far away. Aliosha will finally get to see his mother, but with little time left to stay with her. The final scene is heartbreaking (and I'm not someone who get really emotional when seeing a movie), even if you aren't aware that, with a mean frontline life expectancy of little more than two weeks, chances that Aliosha will see his mother again are pretty slim. This is a simple, effective demonstration of the cinematic power of a linear and powerful story. Very good cinematography, great perfomances and a solid editing make this a winner even for today's audiences. If you want to know what's like to be in a war where (at least!) twenty millions of your compatriots have been killed, your country ravaged and the very existence of your culture put in danger, watch this movie.
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Format: DVD
As time goes on, I keep returning to films that exquisitely portray the human condition: films like "The Bicycle Thief," "Forbidden Games," "The Official Story," "Boy," and "Ballad of a Soldier," to name a few. When I first saw "Ballad of a Soldier," I also had under my belt many of the masterpieces of the new wave films from Europe and Asia in the 50s and early 60s. This brilliant film and "The Cranes Are Flying" put another face on the Cold War for me.
Most in the West think the United States and allies "won" WWII. Nothing could be further from the truth. Germany invaded Russia on June 22, 1941, and proceeded to destroy their country and over 28 million Russian citizens and soldiers. The battles on the Eastern Front were of such breadth and scope that no comparison is possible in history. For example, in the famous 1943 battle of Kursk (remember the Russian sub?), up to 6,000 total tanks battled over a 200-mile front that resulted in a million deaths. This adventure took about 10 days. Stalingrad alone was the beginning of the end for the Germans, resulting in 160,000 dead and 500,000 taken prisoner. The savagery there was literally unspeakable and horrible, and the losses by the Russians were horrendous. Behind the Russians was the butcher Stalin, and in front of them were the Germans, yet in spite of these evils, the Russian people rose up with an incredible sense of protecting their motherland. When the war in the East was over in 1945, the Red Army had destroyed, disabled, or captured 607 German and Axis divisions; Americans and allies, from Africa to Berlin, destroyed a total of 167 enemy divisions. Their total deaths numbered around 8 million. Total American deaths in Europe numbered around 300,000.
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