February 4th, 2022
MOVIE: COMPARTMENT NUMBER 6
STARRING: SEIDI HAARLA, YURIY BORISOV, POLINA AUG
DIRECTED BY: JUHO KUOSMANEN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
I would call Compartment No. 6 an uncomfortable film. Uncomfortable because it’s authentic and uncomfortable because the story involves a long train ride. The crammed experience of traveling in a train car is one thing and then you throw on top of it the unpredictability of the person that is riding in the compartment with you. And even with all of those uncomfortable factors, it only proves that director Juho Kuosmanen’s film is quite good, a natural experience that feels real in every sense, from the emotions of our lead character, the mystery of where the journey is taking us, and the complete arc that drives it home. Compartment No. 6 is a fascinating film of life compacted on the setting of a train, capturing the true complexities of the human experience, all of it starting from the moment we board. Slowly chugging along, this is a true example of one person’s self journey, and Compartment No. 6 is a train ride that I can’t stop running in my head.
The lead character is Laura (Seidi Haarla), who we meet at a goodbye party with her girlfriend Natalia (Yuliya Aug), as she will embark on a trip from Moscow to the arctic port of Murmansk. Originally this was supposed to be a trip for the two of them, but Natalia is not going, leaving Laura emotionally cold, left to take the trip as part of her archeological studying of cave drawings, and creating a fracture in their relationship. Laura boards the train, she enters the title Compartment No. 6 and meets Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov) who is drinking vodka and making the compartment his own home. It’s obvious that this is going to be a long train ride.
What might be an easy movie to compare Compartment No. 6 to is Before Sunrise, where a train ride of two people meet, resulting in the two making an unexpected connection. But what Richard Linklater’s film has is romance and Compartment No. 6 is much more complex. Laura is run through the gauntlet of human emotions, from the fact that Natalia has no interest to keep talking to her on the phone, the way Ljoha begins as a complete jerk and slowly peels away his mask, revealing he’s a much more tender person than his macho persona leads on. Through the film’s entire runtime, it’s impossible not to feel like we are along for the ride, feeling crammed, taking trips to the dining car for a sandwich, standing by a window in the cold for Laura to smoke, and constant thoughts that she’s made the wrong choice.
The word that kept running in my head when watching Compartment No. 6 was authenticity. The production from director Juho Kuosmanen is stellar, reminding me of Agnes Varda’s Vagabond, a movie about a woman roaming the countryside, homeless, and looking for shelter in a cold world. It’s not that this Laura character is similar, it’s just that both characters have a lost sense of connection, and are looking for comfort in any place possible. The screenplay- written by Kuosmanen, Andris Feldmanis, and Livia Ulman, adapted from the novel of the same name from Rosa Liksom- is impossible to believe, where the interactions between characters are just conversations, moments of pure frustration, including where Laura meets another man that seems to make Ljoha jealous, or the compartment clerk (Galina Petrova) getting frustrated when the childish antics of Ljoha annoy her more than usual, it all becomes a part of the atmosphere. If “lived in” was a term for cinema to be used, I would put Compartment No. 6 at the top of the list to define that term.
And the final act is even better, where the characters reach their destination, and decisions must be made. It’s the final act that raises the narrative up, cementing that nothing about Compartment No. 6 is cliched. The possibilities of this journey are endless, from fighting, drunken stupidity, romance, or nothing at all. The pacing can be a bit too languid at times- all intentionally obvious- and the characters may not charm everyone, but Compartment No. 6 is a movie that grows on you. Things start uncomfortable, you begin to settle into the surroundings of the train, and before you know it, this has become a comfy cozy place to be. The train ride is worth it and it’s stuff like this that makes venturing out to see a new foreign film the risk you should always take.
COMPARTMENT NO. 6 IS PLAYING THIS FRIDAY FEBRUARY 4TH, 2022 AT THE MUSIC BOX IN CHICAGO AND OTHER SELECT THEATERS
Written by: Leo Brady