Well, I actually don't rate "Ballada o soldate" as a war movie. What Chukhraj tried to say in this film, was so far from such a category, and I'd like to explain why here.
When you saw it. You'd notice that an actual portrait of war was just in the opening, but never, ever, after that. Why? I think we have to think about this theoretically, and understand correctly what the director meant by it.
The main plot of the movie is actually, about three couples, rather than, say, cruelty of war, what wars brought to innocent people.
Yes. What we often call "innocent people" is the main protagonists in this film. But observe them closely. Are they really innocent? In this film, most of them are depicted as people who sometimes do bad things, and can be never perfect.
Take each example.
1. Vasya (the man who's physically handicapped)
He's not so looking forward to seeing his wife. He thought he was not in good terms with her before, and if he comes up again to her, he'll not be welcomed. I think, here, he'd done something guilty in the past, or he just thoght so, but too clearly, something in his mind suffers him and makes him reluctant to see his wife. What is it actually? What was it like, the relationship between him and his wife before? The answer isn't given in the film, but we can imagine. This is what I like about this movie.
2. Liza (the woman to whom Alyosha brought soap)
She's now living with a new man whose face we can't actually see, but at least we know she's guilty about it. Interestingly, her father-in-law, who's been hospitalized, knows the fact, but accepts it and lies to Alyosha that she's dying to see Pavlov as soon as possible. But before that, Alyosha has also lied to everyone around him about Pavlov too, so, it's fifty-fifty. I think these scenes are important from the viewpoint of "lying".
It may seem that she's not done anything wrong. But think about, when she entered into a wagon in which Alyosha hid? Alyosha had any good reason and right to be there, but she didn't. However, she blamed him as a bad man just because he was there, and hit him hard. (But, as we know, they got more and more intimate after all!)
Well, these 3 couples, Vasha/his wife, Liza/Pavlov, Shura/Alyosha, are the main subject of this film. That said, what is it that we learn from that fact? I think, from the comparison of them, especially what love means to each of them, what it seems first, how good/bad it turns out afterward............. it's all about conscience, or lack of mutual trust, I'd say. And only at the first scene and the ending, the director really shortly shows audience the crulty of war.
This kind of composition is always very interesting to me. It's as if, the director was going to say, "Hey, the war was cruel, I know, but humans can be equally cruel!"
Somebody I know said, "When we see Chukhraj's films, we have to keep in mind that everyone in the film is bad, otherwise we lose the main point of his films."
Aghh...I got so tired of typing that I'll stop around here but, what I was trying to say here is, somebody will claim this film, like "Moving, Most beautiful picture I've ever seen!!!!", but actually, it's not a kind of like that. It's very thought-provoking, well-scripted, and theoretically composed film.
Lastly, I want to quote my favorite line from this movie.
"It's always nice to know that somebody is a good person actually, who we'd been afraid of before."