Wings (1966) | Obscure Picks
A former war female pilot Nadezhda Petrukhina (Mayya Bulgakova) works as a schoolteacher in a provincial town where she is growing more and more dissatisfied with her fate which does not spare her reasons to moon around. Not only is she unable to persuade her daughter Tanya (Zhanna Bolotova) that her newly married husband Igor (Vladimir Gorelov) might not have been a perfect choice for her, but also she must face ever arising troubles with her students…
“The depicted tragedy ceaselessly touches the audience with its simplicity and sheer artistic beauty”
Larisa Sheptiko, the director of brilliant The Ascent from 1966, crafts this endearing psychological drama with utmost insight and sensitivity. Imbuing the celluloid with multiple instants of poignant humanism bereft of any sort of pointless maudlinness, she abstracts the flick from Soviet formulas moralising communistic history and its political milieu. The motion picture recounts a story of grappling with oppressive alienation and emotional chilliness Nadezhda Petrukhina whose wings are clipped by her incompliant daughter Tanya. She is unable to acquiesce in the fact that her adopted daughter Tanya, the human who she endowed with a great deal of motherly love and passion, does not appreciate her affection in the least. Both women cannot expunge the rigidness and coldness from their relationship and however hard she attempts, Nadezhda is not able to fill in the psychological chasm between herself and Tanya. Tanya disregards her mother’s opinion and having married a far older male, she procrastinates introducing her consort to her parent.
Once Nadezhda meets Tanya’s husband for the very first time, she unflinchingly proceeds to the ineluctable conversation with the man who is a complete stranger, yet also the husband of her dearest infant. Try as she might, she is incapable of concealing her hostility towards Igor whom she does not trust. Igor’s impassive demeanour only compounds the friction between him and Nadezhda and his evasive, concise responses surreptitiously inform her of the fact that Igor and Tanya glower at her presence and they don’t want her to meddle in their marital life. Likewise, Tanya deems her mother rustic and narrow-minded. The moment Tanya’s lacerating attitude dawns on Nadezhda, the mother grows disillusioned and grasps that she failed to infuse into her child’s veins values which she always worshipped i.e. living in simplicity and assisting other citizens minus expecting any prize for it. Either, her struggle to retain some sort of order within school where she is provided with the position frequently proves to be futile. The protagonist is constrained to consent to the inevitability of passing time and the fugaciousness of joy as well as stability which perish as soon as they appear in one’s existence. She is only enabled to alleviate her pain through sorties into her gracious past during World War II when she was both a pilot and a far freer human being. Taking notice of all psychological subtleties, Sheptiko handles the material with immaculate cinematic precision, even though her storytelling and the montage sporadically took me aback insofar as I initially didn’t know whether some scenes were supposed to be a retrospections or situated in the present, but these abrupt transitions were few and far between and never trammelled my appreciation of the content.
Mayya Bulgakova is absolutely exquisite as the middle-aged female at a loss for ways of altering her life which seems a dreary nightmare in which happens nothing but bitter events. Her acting grows particularly proficient while performing with Zhanna Bolotova, who impersonates her role quite well, too. Bulgakova beauteously exhibits the main hero’s dilemmas which arise at virtually every step. There is a good performance from Pantelejmon Krymov too.
The black-and-white cinematography by Igor Slabnevich glistens with exposition of the provincial town as well as flashbacks which mostly display gliding amidst creamy clouds. Particularly, the scene encompassing a moist street glinting in the falling drizzle comes to one’s attention for as much it miraculously captures the poetry of so simple a scenery and punctuates the aesthetic of contrasting black and white hues. The filming style is relatively different from the one in aforementioned Sheptiko’s masterpiece The Ascent. Instead of using hand-held documentary-like camerawork, it seems to me that the opus is generally constructed from more balanced, delicate tracking shots and some staid takes. The movie characterises ostensible serenity which is contradicted by hapless Nadezhda Petrukhina’s condition. The soundtrack by Roman Ledenyov remains rather in the background with its old-fashioned riffs and invariably constitutes more an appendage than an independent factor, but it beautifully adorns the enthralling visuals on several occasions, particularly during the flashback sequences in which violin is lavishly exploited.
Verbalising in a few lines, Sheptiko’s Wings is a remarkable piece of cinema which genuinely captivates with its unflinching frankness and never strains to douse into feministic or communistic ideologies in an overzealous measure. Consequently, it stays extraordinarily fresh and palatable up to this day and the depicted tragedy ceaselessly touches the audience with its simplicity and sheer artistic beauty. The tears of the protagonist are palpable, the force of drama is smashing and its beauty irresistible.
Verdict: 8/10 stars – excellent