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Film / Wings (1966)

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Wings is a 1966 film from the Soviet Union, directed by Larisa Shepitko.

Nadezha (Maya Bulgakova) is a middle-aged woman living a dull, uneventful life as principal of a Soviet vocational school. She finds the educational work uninspiring, especially when she has to dismiss a smart-ass student, who only sneers at her in return. She has a daughter, Tanya—but she and Tanya are estranged, to the point that Nadya hasn't even met her new son-in-law Igor. She is engaged in a relationship with Pavel, a museum curator, but that is unfulfilling as well.

Nadya can't stop thinking about the most fulfilling time in her now boring life: when she was a fighter pilot in the Great Patriotic War. She remembers not only the freedom and joy she felt while flying, but her old lover Mitya, a fellow fighter pilot who was shot down.

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Feature film debut of Shepitko, who had just graduated from Soviet film school. One of only four feature films made by Shepitko before her tragic death in a car accident at the age of 41.

Not to be confused with the 1927 film Wings, about World War I fighter pilots.


Tropes:

  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: One shot has the camera at ground level focusing on a plane. Then the focus changes for a tight closeup of a shoot of wild grass directly in front of the camera.
  • Blood Knight: It turns out that Nadya actually really enjoyed combat in World War II. Of course, soaring through the air in a plane was probably better than hunkering down in the woods as German shells crashed down.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Nadya is looking for one, finding herself adrift in middle age.
  • The Generation Gap: One of the themes is the gap between the generation that suffered through World War II and the new generation of Soviet youth, growing up in the 1960s with no experience of sacrifice and less of a sense of duty. When Tanya suggests that Nadya quit her boring job and let other people teach the snotnosed punks, Nadya is appalled.
    Nadya: I never even knew such words as these: "Let someone else do it.”
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  • Glory Days: A drab existence fighting with snot-nosed teens and her sullen daughter and her boring boyfriend leads Nadya to think about her youth as a fighter pilot. She is unpleasantly surprised to find that she is a literal museum exhibit, in an exhibition about fighter pilots in the war.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Nadya is shooting the breeze with a lady shopkeeper, reminiscing about their Glory Days, when a song on the radio leads them to start dancing together. They are surprised to see a whole crowd of men outside the shop, watching them through the glass.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: Atypical in that it's centered around a woman, and somewhat downplayed, although Nadya does impulsively ask Pavel to marry her.
  • Inspired by...: There was a whole squadron of Soviet female fighter pilots.
  • Match Cut: From Nadya walking out of the auditorium to Nadya walking down a hallway of her school.
  • No Ending: Nadya, missing her Glory Days, is given to visiting the airfield and chatting up the pilots. When one pilot has to go back to the hanger, Nadya climbs up into his plane on a whim. The pilots, who all know her, start pushing the plane around the field. Nadya gets an odd look on her face. To everyone's surprise, she starts the engine and takes off. There's another POV shot from a plane soaring through the air. конец.
  • Scenery Porn: Some lovely POV shots of a plane soaring through the air, representing Nadya's memories. These gorgeous shots are used as a deliberate contrast to the tight, cramped, mostly indoor shots showing Nadya's current civilian life.
  • Slice of Life: A character study of one woman's mid-life crisis.
  • War Is Glorious: Nadya's exciting life as a World War II fighter pilot is certainly a contrast to her dull existence in 1960s Russia.
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