Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s new film, Compartment No. 6, is a beguiling romance, set in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, in which two wildly mismatched travellers find themselves sharing a sleeping compartment from Moscow to Murmansk.
The film is adapted from a novel of the same name by Finnish artist and author Rosa Liksom, and concerns Laura (Seidi Haarla), a young Finnish student of archaeology, who is on her way by train to Russia’s remote north-west in the Arctic Circle to view the petroglyphs at Murmansk – mysterious rock drawings, thousands of years old.
Laura finds that she must share compartment number 6 with Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), a boorish, drunk young guy who is on his way to get a job in a coal mine in Murmansk. Laura and Ljoha are chalk and cheese, almost caricatured representatives of their respective nations. Gradually they find common ground beneath the alien surfaces as the cold war between them begins to thaw.
In Finnish and Russian with sub-titles
Running Time 107 mins
Ratings Info Contains mild language
Director(s) Juho Kuosmanen
Cast includes Seidi Haarla, Yuriy Borisov, Yuliya Aug
Nominations & Awards 19 wins including 2021 Grand Prix of Cannes Film Festival from 45 nominations
There is a bone-chilling cold in the film’s location – Murmansk in Russia’s remote north-west – but a wonderful human warmth and humour in this offbeat story of strangers on a train and of national characteristics starting to melt.
Yes, this is a Russian without a”Z” on his clothes or in his heart, and of course the larger point is that of course, there are millions of Ljoha’s fellow citizens who cannot be tarred by the malign mediocrity of Putin’s chauvinism. There is charm and gentleness in…….. the movie as a whole.
Beautifully believable performances from Haarla and Borisov add emotional weight…………..As for any wider message, the film’s central theme of overcoming otherness and finding common ground across personal, cultural and geographical borders seems like a balm for the soul in these tumultuous times.
A hit at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival — where it won the Grand Prix ……..this arthouse romance is being marketed as “the Finnish Before Sunrise”. It’s tougher than that and certainly more challenging.
The challenge for Juho Kuosmanen, the skilful director and co-writer, is to make these two fall in love, and to do it with compassion and credibility. The final shot leaves you beaming with contentment.
This gripping drama follows the burgeoning ‘will they, won’t they, should they’ relationship between two accidental travelling companions.
Kuosmanen’s visual craft gives the film a beautifully worn texture, with sunlight poking through the grime. ……………
But it’s the rapport between the actors – or the anti-rapport, to start with – that makes this such a winning diversion.
To even call this a love story at times feels like overreaching, with no obvious passion or particularly dramatic displays of affection; ………… and it’s this plainness and simplicity that provides much of the film’s beauty.
These performances too leave nothing to be desired; both Seidi Haarla and Yuriy Borisov perfectly embody the inherent ordinariness of Laura and Ljoha………..The beauty of these candid performances is in their subtlety.
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