Before Putin's new geopolitics turned the world upside down, there was a time not so long ago when Finland and Russia even made films together. Estonia and Germany also collaborated in the endeavour. With money, means and personnel from all four countries, 'Compartment, No. 6' was produced, a surprising train journey from Moscow to the frozen north, where nothing is as it seems.
A young Finnish archaeology student leaves the Moscow where she lives with her friend-lover and embarks alone on a voyage of discovery in search of ancient petroglyphs. An odyssey on rails that she is forced to share in the same cabin of the train with a rude young Russian who forces her to be on guard all the way. Nothing like a journey to discover oneself and the essence of life beyond appearances.
Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen managed to win one of the most coveted prizes at the last Cannes Film Festival with his second feature film, placing it at the top of the list of winners, which makes it clear that this film is well constructed from start to finish. As simple as it is effective, 'Compartment' is a small box of surprises, an act of creative magic from the space the two passengers are forced to share, on their way to the Siberian city of Murmansk in the Arctic Circle. It is based on a novel by Rosa Likson.
The film is effectively shot hand-held, naturally, without many aesthetic concessions. A clear and direct script that follows the most classical rules of development, but without being tied to the usual conventions. Nothing is what it seems in the field of human relationships. The kindest person can be a swindler; the man you don't trust can help you fulfil your dream. Vital mirages.
The director believes that this story "is equally about the encounter with the other and about diving inside yourself and trying to understand and accept who you are". The journey to any place becomes the introspective journey to know oneself. "When you meet someone new, there is a chance to start over, to pretend to be something you would like to be. Or an opportunity to open yourself up, to learn something new about yourself".
This train journey into deep Russia, which glimpses the mediocre living conditions, bureaucratic idleness and routines of a country that drags its feet, comes at a time of analysis of its politics and isolation. Seen now as a true hymn to friendship between strangers, this film that puts us on a moving train can be a good metaphor for a future that should be friendlier than the warlike prospects of the moment.
This series of cinematographic goodness made into a film was recognised at the last festival of festivals, and now its premiere is finally coming to Spain, just when another adventure like this is no longer possible. A Finnish woman travelling alone through Russia now seems like a science fiction proposal. A co-production between these two nationalities, with the participation of Germans and Baltics, sounds like a chimera.