siin the early 1990s, while filming the bizarre Russian-backed horror film in Ukraine Dark Waters, I spent 17 hours on a midnight train from Moscow to Odessa. To this day I can still vividly remember the noise, smell, and claustrophobia of that trip, crammed into a damp, four-story bunk bed with tiny corridors whose windows were closed, leading to toilets that were best avoided. All these memories came back in a hurry as I watched them Apartment No. 6, a 1990s drama in which a young woman boardes a Moscow train heading in the opposite direction – to the port of Murmansk. The trajectory of the film may be north rather than south and the timeline is much longer than my journey, but the expression on the face of Finnish actress Seidi Haarla as she enters the title apartment had the same combination of horror and resignation that I remember so well.
Harla plays Laura, a Finnish student living in Moscow with Irina (Dinara Drukarova), an academic he has fallen in love with. Together, they embarked on a journey to see the Kanozero petroglyphs, ancient petroglyphs dating from the third millennium BC. But Irina’s schedule changed and she encouraged Laura to go it alone, leaving her to share a sleeping cabin not with her lover but with a stranger, Russian miner Ljoha (Yuri Borisov).
Laura and Ljoha are chalk and cheese, almost caricatures of their respective nations. He is rude, often drunk and aggressively rude, asking if he would go to Murmansk to work as a prostitute. She is distant, looking disapprovingly from the upper bunk as she fills the cabin with her drink and cigarette smoke. At first it seems that their confinement can lead to some form of violence – that one of them may not reach his destination. But as the journey progresses, a form of social perestroika begins to emerge. Gradually they find common ground beneath the surfaces of the aliens as the Cold War between them begins to thaw.
Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen, who made the melancholy romance of boxing The happiest day of Olli Mäki’s lifehas described Apartment No 6 (which was loosely adapted from a novel by Rosa Lixom) as “an arctic road movie set on a train”. Largely shot within the confines of a real Russian train, the film captures the authentic air of its setting, placing the audience right there in this strange boundary between stopping and moving, an environment that strikes a chord with both main characters. of.
Despite her statement that she longs to return to Irina’s bohemian apartment in Moscow, flashbacks to Laura’s life there show her like a fish out of water. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that she started this exhausting journey in the country just in an attempt to integrate into the life of her beloved. As for Ljoha, beneath his daring exterior lies a painful acknowledgment that Laura can only be his companion – for better or worse – during this journey.
Next to David Lean’s British classic Short meeting and the German masterpiece by Wolfgang Petersen The boat, Kuosmanen tells the brotherly love story of Karim Aïnouz in 2019 The invisible life of Eurydice Guasmao and Sophia Coppola It is lost in translation as key influences. I also saw dead echoes of the American independent street film by Jim Jarmusch Stranger Than Paradise, in which Richard Enson’s Eddy remarked: “It’s funny – you’re coming to a new place and everything looks the same.” While Apartment No 6 can take place on the other side of the world, the bittersweet conclusion is similar. Wherever you go, it does not matter the arrival but the journey.
Beautifully believable performances by Haarla and Borisov add emotional weight, competing with the subtle naturalistic charm of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater Before trilogy. As with any broader message, the film’s central theme of transcending otherness and finding common ground across personal, cultural, and geographical boundaries seems like a balm to the soul in these turbulent times.