DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Compartment No. 6

A nightmare train journey becomes a tale of human connection in this intriguing European co-production - on all major VoD platforms on Friday, May 6th

This Cannes Grand Prix winning drama is set in Russia, which may not be the most appealing proposition at the moment. However, beyond the location, it is very much a Pan-European film, having been co-written and directed by Finnish filmmaker Juho Kuosmanen, based on a novel from her compatriot Rosa Liksom; co-produced by Russian, Finnish, Estonian and German companies. A fine example of international co-production that may be less possible in the future.

Compartment No. 6 early moments seem like the set up for either a horror film or a romantic drama. Finnish archaeology student Laura (Seidi Haarla) is travelling from Moscow, where she studies, to the city of Murmansk over 1,000 miles away to study Petroglyphs (rock drawings to you and I). The epic train journey is made more difficult when her girlfriend, a literature professor, pulls out of the trip at the last minute, with excuses that signal all is not well. Confused, Laura boards a sleeper train filled with rude staff and crowded facilities, to be greeted by her compartment mate Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov). A Russian miner travelling for work, he drinks too much and harasses Laura, who initially does anything to get away. As the journey goes on, however, the pair find an unlikely bond.

Were this made in Hollywood, Ljoha would either become a nightmarish predator or blossom into a romantic lead. Under Kuosmanen’s direction, the story is far more interesting. Through Laura, we see the isolation of living in a place without being “from there”, as fellow passengers assume she is a tourist and make assumptions about her nationality. The story is set pre-smartphone, somewhere in the ’90s judging by tech and cultural references. Laura uses stops to call her girlfriend from a phonebooth, and films messages on a camcorder to be discovered later. These are interesting devices to compound the isolation and force our leads’ confrontation, in a way that wouldn’t be possible if the wifi was working.

The plot progression may be slow, but the character development certainly isn’t. We’re invited to spend time with this unlikely duo, rather than wonder where the story is heading, and by the end they feel truly three dimensional. Borisov is fascinating, using our initial assumptions from his ugly, drunken introduction to blindside us later on. Beneath the swearing and toxic hostility is a very vulnerable man, curious about his travelling companion in a way he never seems equipped to express. This animated portrayal allows Haarla to be more considered. Laura is cautious around Ljoha, but rolls with his verbal jabs and uses her intellect to give some back (when he asks her the Finnish for “I love you”, she replies with the translation for “fuck you”).

Rolling to a stop and refusing to offer neat conclusions, Compartment No. 6 is an intriguing character study about our need to keep going, even if the reasons for carrying on aren’t all that clear. Well-acted and directed with care, it’s a dirty train ride with a lot going on beneath the surface.

Compartment No. 6 is in cinemas and also on Curzon Home Cinema from April 8th. On all major VoD platforms on Friday, May 6th.

By Victoria Luxford - 29-03-2022

London-born Victoria Luxford has been a film critic and broadcaster since 2007, writing about cinema all over the world. Beginning with regional magazines and entertainment websites, she soon built up...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More

The Problem of the Hero

Shaun Dozier

Eoghan Lyng - 01-03-2024

Two playwrights disagree on a scene, but this has as much to say about their backgrounds as it does their writing acumen; American drama set 80 years ago highlights some very familiar facets of racism and misogyny [Read More...]

Ian Christie dissects Powell and Pressburger


Victor Fraga - 27-02-2024

Film historian Ian Christie talks to DMovies' editor Victor Fraga about 21st century audiences and their relation to the iconic British filmmaking duo, P&P's influence on other artists, the late Queen, and much more - read our exclusive interview, in partnership with Doesn't Exist [Read More...]

Baldiga – Unlocked Heart (Baldiga – Entsichertes Herz)

Markus Stein

Daniel Theophanous - 26-02-2024

Queer photographer from Germany openly exposed his life in a bid to remove HIV stigma from generations to come - from the Panorama Dokumente section of the Berlinale [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *