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compartment no. 6

★★★★

starring: Seidi Haarla, Yuriy Borisov, Yuliya Aug, and Tomi Alatalo

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

A Finnish student and an uncouth miner slowly forge a hesitant connection when they throw together in cramped train quarters on a journey across Russia.

A young Finnish woman escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a larger than life Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment No. 6 to face major truths about human connection.

 

At first appearance Compartment No. 6 appears to be a rather simplistic concept - two strangers on a train - and it doesn’t scream tense thriller. But there’s a reason why Compartment No. 6 jointly won the Grand Prix prize alongside Farhadi’s Persian drama A Hero last year at Cannes. Hopeful and filled with tenderness, Compartment No. 6 is a bittersweet drama with all the joy and pitfalls of human relationships at its center. 

 

At the very center of Compartment No. 6 is the relationship between Laura, a Finnish archaeological student and Vadim, a miner, who are both heading to the Arctic port of Murmansk via train. But both are heading there for completely different reasons: Laura to see the petroglyphs (rock carvings) and Vadim is heading there for work. 

 

This is where the film discovers its drama which builds in tension as the considered Laura interacts with the boorish and volatile Vadim who you never really quite know whether he’s going to be the good guy or the baddie at any given moment. 

 

Aiding the wonderfully crafted characters is Juho Kuosmanen’s use of every trick in his director’s book: filming on moving trains that groan, shake and throw the characters around and the bleak, bitter Russian winter which adds to the sense of uneasy tension. 

 

Seidi Haarla’s Laura is the emotional heartbeat of the film with her wide eyed curiosity beautifully balanced by her search for meaning and place in the world. Yuriy Borisov plays Vadim wide eyed too, but with a danger that hovers just below the surface.

 

Hopeful and filled with tenderness, Compartment No. 6 is a bittersweet drama with all the joy and pitfalls of human relationships at its center.

★★★★