The Heron and the Crane is a 10 minute 1974 Russian animated film directed by Yuriy Norstein, produced by the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow. Based on a folk tale, it tells the bittersweet story of a Crane and a Heron who live in the ruins of a mansion.
Crane decides to court Heron, who initially rejects him because of his arrogance. By the time Heron has changed her mind and is willing to marry Crane, it's his turn to refuse her. After a while however, he reconsiders and asks Heron to marry him again, only to have her pride get in the way of accepting. It is a delicate courtship ritual, a hopeless cause thwarted by either party's inability to overcome their own conceit, even if the cost is their lifelong happiness.
The ending implies that the tragic back-and forth of marriage proposals and pride continues forever as the characters make increasingly anguished gestures of love to each other.
This work includes examples of:
- An Aesop: The story is a cautionary tale about pride.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Neither Crane nor Heron ever say it directly, but their actions are clearly meant to be seen as this.
- Dance of Romance: Heron and Crane have one, and it is implied that their feelings for each other deepen thanks to it. Unfortunately, the harmony does not last long.
- The Dandy: Crane is very concerned with his appearance. Heron even makes a note of it.
- Downer Ending: Crane and Heron remain forever locked in their painful game, growing more desperately in love with each other ever day, but never swallowing their pride for long enough to accept the other.
- Fatal Flaw: Pride is what ultimately gets in the way of Crane and Heron's happiness.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Crane is much taller than Heron.
- Marriage Before Romance: Crane wants to marry Heron because she has several pleasant qualities, but he does not know her very well, nor does he love her. At first.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Crane wears a vest, while Heron wears a string of beads around her neck, to identify them as male and female, respectively.