THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (Lev Kulidzhanov, Yakov Segel, 1957)

Co-written humanely by Iosif Olshansky and Nina Rudneva, and co-directed with sumptuous fluidity by Lev Kulidzhanov and Yakov Segel, the Soviet Dom, v kotorom ya zhivu is emotionally relentless in depicting the destructive impact of the Second World War on three households in a single apartment building. I have never cried so much watching a movie, unless the movie be Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot (1989). I prefer poignancy to the busting of a dam.

In the early stages of the film, before the outbreak of war, one can sense the torrential tears that are coming by the idyllic, wholly unrealistic circumstances of these families’ lives. Everyone is too jolly (and in the Soviet Union yet!); we are being set up for a heart-battering spill.

That said, this is quite a compelling piece of work, and one in which the fate of each character is given the moral weight that it is due. The acting, all around, is excellent.

For me, this lacks the formal elegance of Ballad of a Soldier (Grigori Chukhrai, 1959) but is light years beyond The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957), which is insufferably fancy and arty. The House I Live In is as simple and straightforward as something from Hollywood.


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