Saturday, September 16, 2017


I finally got around to watching the 1966 Soviet film Wings off my DVR since I realized that it is in fact available on DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection. (It's actuall available as well on the TCM Shop and Amazon, but searching on the title Wings doesn't show it; it helps to search under the name of the director, Larisa Shepitko.)

There's not much of a story here; Wings is really more of a character story. Nadezhda Petrukhina (Maya Bulgakova) is the 40-something headmistress of a vocational high school in a provincial Russian city (unnamed, and I couldn't find where the exteriors were shot although I'd guess that was in one of the satellite cities around Moscow). Nadezhda doesn't seem to have much joy in life, as there's work, and not much else. Well, there's a museum director who takes an interest in her, although for her it's really a platonic friendship.

It turns out there's a good reason there's not much joy in her life: Nadezhda was a pilot in World War II, earning the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and worthy of being a museum exhibit. It was there that she met her husband Mitya, who unfortunately died in the war. Nadezhda has flashbacks to the war, which seems to have given her a sense of purpose in life, and with the war long over Nadezhda has lost that purpose in life.

Nadezhda adopted a daughter and obviously told the daughter Tanya that Dad died in the war because Tanya has no idea that she's adopted. Tanya has recently gotten married, and she and Mom are distant enough that Mom has never seen her son-in-law. She goes to visit, and the visit doesn't go so well.

Wings is a very well-made movie, even though there's very little story here. Bulgakova does extremely well as the middle-aged woman has sacrificed for everybody, and there are some fun scenes, such as when Nadezhda has to fill in for a student in a school performance, and one where she commiserates with the owner of a Soviet-style diner for the working class. That scene made me think of Joan Crawford and Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce. The cinematography is also excellent. I did have one lingering question of what Nadezhda did in the 20 years following the war, since you'd think it would have taken her less than 20 years to get used to the war being over. Perhaps she was only more recently retired from the military, although I find that hard to imagine.

As long as you know going into it that you're getting a character study and not a full story, I can strongly recommend Wings.

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