Back within the early Nineteen Nineties, whereas masking the filming of the weird Russian-backed, Ukraine-set horror film Darkish Waters, I spent 17 hours on a midnight prepare from Moscow to Odesa. To at the present time I can nonetheless vividly recall the noise, odor and claustrophobia of that journey, crammed into a humid, four-bunk berth with tiny corridors whose home windows had been sealed shut, resulting in bogs that had been finest averted. All these recollections got here speeding again as I watched Compartment No 6, a Nineteen Nineties-set drama by which a younger lady boards a Moscow prepare heading the opposite method – up in direction of the port metropolis of Murmansk. The movie’s trajectory could also be north fairly than south, and the timescale far longer than my journey, however the expression on Finnish actor Seidi Haarla’s face as she enters the titular compartment had that very same mixture of horror and resignation that I bear in mind so effectively.
Haarla performs Laura, a Finnish scholar who has been dwelling in Moscow with Irina (Dinara Drukarova), an instructional with whom she has fallen in love. Collectively, they booked a visit to see the Kanozero petroglyphs, historical rock drawings that date again to the third millennium BC. However Irina’s schedule modified and he or she inspired Laura to go alone, leaving her to share a sleeper cabin not along with her lover however a stranger, Russian miner Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov).
Laura and Ljoha are chalk and cheese, nearly caricatured representatives of their respective nations. He’s gruff, typically drunk and aggressively rude, asking if she goes to Murmansk to work as a prostitute. She is aloof, wanting down disapprovingly from the highest bunk as he fills the cabin together with his booze and cigarette smoke. At first evidently their confinement might result in some type of violence – that one among them may not make it to their vacation spot. However because the journey progresses, a type of social perestroika begins to happen. Progressively they discover widespread floor beneath the alien surfaces because the chilly warfare between them begins to thaw.
Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen, who made the melancholy boxing romance The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, has described Compartment No 6 (which is loosely tailored from a novel by Rosa Liksom) as “an Arctic highway film that takes place in a prepare”. Shot largely inside the confines of an actual Russian prepare, the movie brilliantly captures the genuine air of its setting, inserting the viewers proper there in that unusual liminal house between stasis and movement, an surroundings that strikes a chord with each its central characters.
Regardless of her declaration that she longs to be again in Irina’s bohemian residence in Moscow, flashbacks to Laura’s life there present her as a fish out of water. More and more, it turns into clear that she solely launched into this gruelling cross-country journey in an try to slot in along with her lover’s life. As for Ljoha, beneath his brash exterior lurks a painful recognition that Laura can solely be his companion – for higher or worse – in the course of this journey.
Alongside David Lean’s British basic Temporary Encounter and Wolfgang Petersen’s German masterpiece Das Boot, Kuosmanen cites Karim Aïnouz’s 2019 sisterly love story The Invisible Life of Eurídice Guasmão and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation as key influences. I additionally noticed deadpan echoes of Jim Jarmusch’s US indie highway film Stranger Than Paradise, by which Richard Edson’s Eddie famously remarked: “It’s humorous – you come to someplace new and every part appears simply the identical.” Whereas Compartment No 6 might happen on the opposite aspect of the world, its bittersweet conclusion is analogous; wherever you go, it’s not the arrival however the journey that issues.
Superbly plausible performances from Haarla and Borisov add emotional weight, rivalling the nuanced naturalistic attraction of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater’s Earlier than trilogy. As for any wider message, the movie’s central theme of overcoming otherness and discovering widespread floor throughout private, cultural and geographical borders looks like a balm for the soul in these tumultuous occasions.