Based on a play by V. Rusov, the Russian The Cranes are Flying is a love story set during the early years of World War II. With her boyfriend Boris (Alexei Batalov) on the front lines - and no sign of life from him for eons - Veronica (Tatiana Samoilova, Constantin Stanislavsky's grandniece) is raped by Boris's cousin, Fyodor (Vasily Merkuryev), during an air raid, and later accepts his marriage proposal, despite her lack of love for him - hoping that he'll eventually be able to replace her boyfriend. Several subsequent events (both joyous and melancholy) enable the heroine to rebuild her life, as well as restore her own sense of self-value; she is eventually told that Boris has died in action. The Cranes are Flying won several international awards, and became a staple on the American art-house repertory circuit into the 1970s.
by Hal Erickson synopsis