Back within the early Nineteen Nineties, whereas overlaying 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 today I can nonetheless vividly recall the noise, odor and claustrophobia of that journey, crammed into a moist, four-bunk berth with tiny corridors whose home windows had been sealed shut, resulting in bathrooms that had been greatest averted. All these reminiscences got here speeding again as I watched Compartment No 6, a Nineteen Nineties-set drama through which a younger lady boards a Moscow prepare heading the opposite approach – up in direction of the port metropolis of Murmansk. The movie’s trajectory could also be north relatively 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 pupil who has been dwelling in Moscow with Irina (Dinara Drukarova), a tutorial 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 she or he 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, usually drunk and aggressively rude, asking if she goes to Murmansk to work as a prostitute. She is aloof, trying down disapprovingly from the highest bunk as he fills the cabin together with his booze and cigarette smoke. At first plainly their confinement could result in some type of violence – that one in every of 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 frequent floor beneath the alien surfaces because the chilly conflict 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 street 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, putting 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 condo 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 – all through this journey.
Alongside David Lean’s British traditional Transient 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 street film Stranger Than Paradise, through which Richard Edson’s Eddie famously remarked: “It’s humorous – you come to someplace new and all the things appears simply the identical.” Whereas Compartment No 6 could happen on the opposite facet of the world, its bittersweet conclusion is comparable; 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 appeal 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 frequent floor throughout private, cultural and geographical borders looks like a balm for the soul in these tumultuous occasions.