“You never know what might come around.” – Compartment No. 6
Compartment No. 6 tells the story of Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish student who has been studying in Moscow. When Laura has the opportunity to explore the petroglyphs of Murmansk, she is willing to leave her lover and set out on her own. However, while making the long trek on a train through Russia’s frontier, she is disappointed to share her tiny compartment with Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), a gruff Russian mine worker who has little interest in making Laura’s trip a comfortable one.
Directed by Juho Kuosmanen, Compartment No. 6 is a quiet but passionate character journey into the harsh Russian winter. Filmed almost entirely on an actual train, Kuosmanen makes good use of the claustrophobia atmosphere. Tight hallways, limited spaces (like the repeated use of the dining car) and tiny compartments all highlight the awkward tension that exists between characters who cannot escape one another. As such, Kuosmanen manages to put a much stronger emphasis on the immediacy of the moment that his characters are facing. Although they’d rather be somewhere else—or with someone else—they simply have nowhere to go and must make the best of this together.
This moment is about survival.
By taking this approach, Kuosmanen must rely on the strength of his cast and thankfully, the chemistry between Haala and Borisov is solid. Both strong performers on their own, putting the two of them together provides the driving force for the film and provides some truly wonderful moments. As Laura, Haarla provides an innocence and intelligence that offsets the harsh exterior of her travel partner. Even so, Borisov never allows Ljoha to feel entirely inaccessible, despite his struggles. Within his character, there is a fear of connection that drives him until Haala eventually draws it out of him.
Thrown together out of sheer coincidence, Laura and Ljoha have little in common and struggle to communicate. Broken-hearted because of the separation from her lover, Laura remains focused in her drive to see the famed petroglyphs. At the same time, Ljoha has no such drive or passion, focused only on surviving until his destination. Clutching her camcorder for the memories it contains, she clings to the past while he remains locked into the present.
Regardless of their differences though, a certain sense of comradery develops between them. Laura’s welcoming spirit cracks Ljoha frozen heart. At the same time, Ljoha becomes an encouragement to Laura about her mission and even provides help in accomplishing her goals. Though their time together is brief and their knowledge of each other is limited, the connection that they share is very real.
As a result, Compartment speaks to the people who leave an impact on our lives in unexpected moments. Laura and Ljoha only spend a fraction of their life together, yet they value those moments. A deep affection develops between the two unexpected adventurers where they seem devoted to one another yet also remain individuals. (It’s also worth noting that their relationship is surprisingly non-sexual, as any sort of advancement in that area seems to threaten what develops between them.) Although this one train ride is only a portion of their lives, the effect that they have left on each other will endure.
Charming and enjoyable, Compartment No. 6 is a wonderful character drama with some surprising twists along the way. Anchored by a fascinating duo in Haarla and Borisov, the film is a testament to the fact that the moments we share with one another need not be significant in order to leave a significant impact.
Because you never know what might come around.
Compartment No. 6 is available in theatres on Friday, February 11th, 2022.