- Juho Kuosmanen
- Run Time
- 1 hour and 46 minutes
- Not Rated
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen takes on the strangers on a train genre in this slow moving story about Finnish student Laura (Seidi Haarla) studying in Moscow sometime during a winter of late 80s or mid 90s. It will not be for everyone, but those who enjoy character studies will enjoy the ride.
Laura has been studying in Moscow where she has entered into a Lesbian relationship with Irina (Dinara Drukarova), one of her professors. Irina has aroused her protege’s interest in archaeology by introducing her to accounts and pictures of the rare petroglyphs (rock paintings) in the Murmansk region, far to the northwest of Moscow in the Arctic region. At first suggesting that they travel to see them together, she withdraws, telling Laura that she should go anyway, that she is sorry her job keeps her from leaving the city. That this is a ruse to get rid of her (the student had moved into her apartment) we surmise from the sequence of the going away party that Irina throws for her the night before she is to leave. Laura is clearly out of her element among the sophisticated guests, not knowing the various literary references that Irina makes during their parlor games. This bums rush becomes a certainty when enroute to Murmansk Laura calls her a couple of times and her ex-partner quickly cuts the calls short.
Laura makes those calls to reconnect because she is lonely. Her compartment companion is a boorish young man named Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), greedily eating and drinking his lunch. He drinks too much and makes such boasts as, “Russia is a great country! We beat the Nazis. The moon. We went there!” Laura retreats to the dining car, returning to find him smashed. At one time she tries to talk the indifferent conductor (Julia Aug) into assigning her to another compartment, even offering her cash, but she is rebuffed. She looks through the third class car with its bunks crowded with the poor, but decides to return to Compartment 6. Later another Fin joins them. Ljoha is hostile to him, especially when the traveler strums his guitar and sings.
Ironically, it will be the friendly guitarist and not Ljoha who turns out to be the bad guy. The turning point for the relationship between Laura and Ljoha will come when the train stops for a 24 hour layover in a city where the Russians grandmother resides. He invites Laura to go with him. She turns him down at first, but then relents and finds herself enjoying the visit, Ljoha’s warm relationship with his babushka revealing a tender side to his gruff nature. As they leave to return the next morning to the train, she also sees that he did not rent the car they are riding in.
Ljoha is a miner working in Murmansk who has never heard of the petroglyphs—he struggles each time to pronounce the word—yet he will be the means for the girl getting to see them. When Laura asks in Murmansk about transportation to the site of the petroglyphs, she is told that it is impossible until spring because of the impassable roads. (One more clue to the fact that she’s been dumped by her former lover, who surely would have known this.) What happens next results in a satisfying conclusion, played out in a low-keyed fashion alien what a Hollywood filmmaker would have made.
No questions for this film.