Friday, November 25, 2022

Compartment Number 6

 "Compartment Number 6" (2021) won the Grand Prix, plus a special mention for the director at Cannes.  It was supported  by agencies of Finland, Russia and Estonia.  Written and directed by a Finn with the leading actress also a Finn. as were some of the crew  All the filming was done in Russia with most of the dialogue in Russian.  Although the plot maintains it is about a a train trip it actually is filmed in St. Petersburg with the final parts done in Murmansk, like the Oscar winner "Leviathan." (2014).  I watched the DVD version picked up in my local library.

 The basic story is a train trip from Moscow to Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean.  Laura, visiting from Finland was planning to travel to Murmansk with her girlfriend Irina.  The purpose was to view and study the Petroglphs from an ancient civilization.   Irina backed out and Laura decided to go it alone.  They had booked a sleeping compartment that would sleep four people, but Laura found herself having to bunk with a repulsive man.  Ljoha who asks why she is going and is at first mystified about Petroglphs and then dismissed it.  He asked her another set of questions that were so crude Laura left to find anoher bunk and not succeeding, actually left the train before rethinking and returning.

Most of us recognize this scenario as a setup for a romance.  Well, I don't want to spoil it, but there was one factor not to  be dismissed; that being her sleeping with her girlfriend in the early part of the film.

 There is a stopover on the way and we meet an older woman who counsels that women are smarter than men.  Eventually they reach Murmansk, but Laura soon learns that the Petroglphs are not accessible during the winter.  She checks out a few other sites and eventually checks the mining site where Ljoha got a job, but they parted in a very awkward manner.  You've got most of the plot, but it is done much better than you might expect.

The Cannes Festival judges are careful in their choices.  Check out some of the cast and crew.

Based on a novel by Rosa Liksom which won a national Finnish literature award.  She has had 7 previous film credits.

Juho Kuosmanen wrote and directed the script.  In 2010 his graduation film was given an award at Cannes.  In 2016, his "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki" also received an award at Cannes.  Juho has also directed an opera.  Recently he took in refugees from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

 Natalya Drozd was a Russian co-producer, but has left the country as she has been a Putin critic.

 Cinematographer  Jani-Petteri-Pussi  has film credits including "The Painting Seller" (2010), "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki" (2016) and "Chernobyl 2019).  St. Petersburg substitutes for the Moscow of the plot because of Covid restrictions.   Most of the filming was done in th dark and a good portion was done from the inside of a moving train.  Originally it was intended that the film would be processed in Hungary, but due to Covid restrictions that was not available.  Instead the film was smuggled into Finland.  The results are impressive.

One of the hi-lites for me was the use of a French song, "Voyage, voyage" by Desireless.  It had reached the top of music charts in several nations.  It is played for the end credit and if you like pop music you should stick around.  Check it out

Jussi Rautaniemi won a national award for his editing on this film.  Previously had won with three previous films.  He enjoys editing documentaries, fiction and movie trailers. 

Yuriy Borisov plays the very obnoxious Ljoha who later becomes a little more likeable.  His performance resulted in a few festival awards.  In 2020 he had been declared Actor of the Year.

Seidi Haarla plays the female train traveler.  She was born in a Finnish theatrical family.  She studied acting in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Has appeared in numerous Finnish films and tv. series.

Finland has an awkward relationship with Russia and recently applied for a NATO membership to protect themselves.  This film is not anti-Russian and apparently met with audience approval when shown there.  "Compartment Number 6" does represent a hopeful collaboration which hopefully will be restored in better times.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

In addition to my usual IMDB and Wikipedia information I also gained some info from The Guardian.

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