Compartment No.6 (2021)
Director (and writer): Juho Kuosmanen
Cast: Yuriy Borisov, Seidi Haarla, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova
As a train weaves its way up to the arctic circle, two strangers share a journey that will change their perspective on life. – IMDB
Compartment no. 6 is one of those films where its about an encounter with a stranger which brings on some new realization. Coincidentally, it is one of the type of film premise that I am very drawn to. The film is primarily in Russian but also has some Finnish as well. Its main setting is during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk as Finnish student Laura and Russian labourer Ljoha have the same trip to make and is assigned to the same compartment. What starts off as unbearable for Laura specifically ends up taking a turn when she starts to know Ljoha more.
These two characters are absolute opposites at first glance. Ljoha starts off as a loud vodka drinking straightforward Russian guy while Laura is sulking in her emotions from doing this trip alone without her girlfriend Irina but also calmly looking forward to seeing the rock paintings to round out her studies. There is an eagerness for Ljoha to know Laura better at first evem if he essentially feels baffled by her desire to go to the middle of nowhere to see these rock paintings. As they do this trip, the changes between the characters together and individually are executes really well. While it feels a lot more on the surface, there is this subtle feeling that connects these two characters together and to the audience. While this train ride seems unbearable at the beginning, the time they spend together end up being rather entertaining. Thinking back, its hard to really specify one single moment that stands out but yet, its the little moments where Laura observes Ljoha or the conversations they have or the friendly gestures extended that gradually makes them into friends. There are undertones of romantic connections here and yet the film leaves that open-ended.
The charm of these sorts of films is mostly character driven and in this sense, Compartment No.6 delivers very well. It does feel at times a little more on the surface but its sufficient to connect with them and their motives. At the same time, the Russian setting and its train ride also has its charm as its not only a tight space but also its many stops reveals a variety of adventures especially since it is in a cold and snowy time. When she goes for a car ride with him to meet an old lady or when Laura invites a Finnish guitar player to their compartment, there is a different dynamic that comes in. The first being one where Laura learns more about Ljoha and the views on life in general between two women while the latter almost feels like an intrusion into their dynamic in the compartment. Much like the train ride also gives the supporting character of the train attendant her own spotlight as she starts off fairly rude but proceeds to being rather nice at the end as well.
Overall, Compartment No. 6 is a really nice film. A good part of it is thanks to a great script that builds up two really good characters and their time together on the train and slightly after. It also is credits to the actor Yuriy Borisov and actress Seidi Haarla that play Ljoha and Laura respectively who captures their roles and delivers their connection and chemistry really well. At the same time, the setting itself its pretty nice. It is fairly isolated the further they go but it emphasizes the contrast between the cold barren outside versus the crowded and tight space inside the train. As a final note, a lot of people seem to compare this to Before Sunrise, which is a film that I haven’t seen yet (but will soon) however, I wouldn’t mind seeing a follow-up on these characters years after just to see what happens to them.
*Watched as part of Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage – The virtual platform is available until October 31st. You can find the film selections HERE*