Quite a lot of films are dedicated to World War II. Many of them were made just after the end of the war, and are an excellent source of information about the most tragic thing the human civilisation has witnessed.
The fighter pilot Bulochkin has rammed the German war plane at an altitude of 6 km, has fallen down onto a tree, then into a puddle, and survived. After he had undergone treatment in a hospital, he was sent to serve at a squadron of “U-2” planes. These are small planes which can only fly at a limited speed and were used to sow maize (they are therefore called “kukuruzniki”). When the war erupted, they were converted to serve as military machines: the pilot would turn off the engine and bomb the enemy unseen, unheard. The squadron was fully staffed by women, and Bulochkin felt ashamed to be the only man there. But he was presented with the dangerous and honorable task of bombing the enemy lines. After having accomplished even more heroic feats, he met a general’s daughter, a journalist, and fell in love with her. Two of his friends also met those they got to love, although all of them had sweared to serve properly until the war ends. Everyone’s own secrets then became common knowledge, love has outdone vows.
The film appeared on April ther 1st, 1945, in time for All Fools day. Unsurprisingly, it was widely criticised for giving a wrong image of war: light-hearted soldiers sing songs and make jokes, humour accompanies them in whatever they do, it shows the soldiers who do not seem preoccupied with going through hunger and the commonly acknowledged duty of driving the Nazis away from our country at the time. The only explanation provided for this is that the public courage needed to be raised at the time. At the time, nobody had supposed that the war would be won a month and 9 days after. But, in contrast to the blames the film had received, it stands out for modest humour and excellent acting. Indeed, “Nebesny tikhokhod” is not a film that should be prohibited or whose demonstration should be restricted. While watching it, we just should bear in mind that it is a comedy, and its genre speaks for its aim.
The story unfolds during 1944, on the unsteady divide between war and “not-the-war”, which gives a specific dramatic character to the film. The film is dedicated to the pilots of the Krasnoznamensky North Fleet. More than 20 years after it appeared in 1983, the film is widely watched and re-watched. It is estimated that about 11.5 million people have watched it in cinemas.
The film knoledgeably and in detail shows the life of marine pilots. While the film was in preparation, it experienced troubles: nearly all the aspects of this film turned out to be subjects of contradiction. The film’s director, Semyon Aranovich, had foressen this and had purpously invited war veterans to watch and discuss the film while it was in the making. After the demonstration ended, they told that what they saw was an accurate portrayal of the war: love and death, borsch and kasha, chats in the kitchen and the message about a near’s death; accurate portrayals are the episodes of the pilot Gavrilov who realised that the boy returned to him from a children’s home is not his son, the amorousness of captain Belobrov with a young widow Nastya…
The director managed to gather a rarely-coherent cast, and the problem of the main hero of the war film, who is traditionally expected to be a heroic person, fell out by itself. All are heroes here. And this is where the ethical value of the film lies. Of a film inwardly polemical in connection with the firmly established stereotype.
A general, sitting in a car, driving along cold and shelterless streets of a war town and says: “A bath-house built, a hair-dresser’s opened, but still no happiness.” An image of a firm, ugly general contrasts with the commonly recognised image of a beautiful soldier surrounded by a heroic epos. Just like a counterpoint, in the end of the film, this general, standing in a vehicle in an aerodrome, says to the pilots in a trembling voice: “I am happy for I can live and serve, and work togeth with people like you, I’m happy!”
In the very end, when the film was ready, Semyon Aranovich thought of another end to the film. Indeed, the sudden change of the finale is in his tradition. As the music continues, photographs of war pilots, dead soldiers and officers, heroes of the war follow one another. This is where the message that those unknown heroes stood up for freedom gets straight.
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