Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner Compartment No 6 gets a showing at Manchester Film Festival. A snowy journey with real warmth.
“To escape, you need to firmly know not where you are running, but from where.”
This quotation occurs at the very beginning of Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s latest feature Compartment No 6, and nicely sets up this voyage of self-discovery for a Finnish archaeology student living in Russia. Laura (Seidi Haarla) is about to leave her professor and girlfriend Irina (Dinara Drukarova) to embark upon a mammoth train journey north across Russia to visit famous petroglyphs in Murmansk. Irina, who was supposed to travel with her, has cried off, citing “work stuff”.
To Laura’s dismay and annoyance, she has to share her compartment with Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), a shaven-headed, hard-drinking Russian on his way to a mining job in Murmansk. A phone call to Irina doesn’t help to soothe her spirits much, and so Laura resolves to continue the journey as planned.
Laura and Ljoha’s getting to know each other is a bumpy journey – much like the train trip – but is the catalyst for Laura to re-evaluate what’s important to her. Along the way, she has various encounters, both alone and with Ljoha, with fellow travellers, random strangers, and small unexpected acts of kindness.
But Compartment No 6 is not some wistful, soul-searching coming-of-age journey – instead, it’s full of rich characters, the wise words of a babushka, and a developing yet strange friendship with her compartment companion who turns out to be not all that he immediately seems.
By the end of the film, Laura and Ljoha have forged an unexpected connection which does not end as you think it might. Filmed predominantly on a moving train which provides authenticity and at times a deliberately claustrophobic feel, Compartment No 6 is feel-good without the saccharine.