While German troops set up headquarters in a bombed-out Russian school, a frightened young girl takes food and medicine to some wounded flyers hidden in the attic. Shot in 1944 amid razed buildings and war rubble, “One Night” mixes these frightfully real settings that inevitably call to mind Italian neo-realist films of the same period, with indoor studio sets, stock characters and theat-rical acting. Resulting melange is less successful than in some of Boris Barnet’s other works, like “A Good Lad,” but still tells a satisfyingly dramatic story. Though not banned at the time, film disappeared from screens very quickly.
Blonde waif Varia (Irina Radchenko) has lost her family and huddles in the ruins of her former school with an old couple, who are soon dis-patched by the Germans. With nowhere to go, she stays on and becomes a servant to the invaders, lead by icy commandant Balz (played by Barnet with one finger on the trigger). Her only friends are three severely wounded airmen she secretly feeds and helps to escape.
Pic exalts her quiet heroism, as well as the open defiance of the town’s citizens. In one remarkable scene, Balz calls a town meeting in a deserted circus, forcing two old-timers to harangue the villagers from the ring. Instead they incite the townsfolk to rebel, and the Germans shoot the whole audience.
One of the pleasures of Barnet’s films today is the way he wipes out the gray tones and pushes his dramas to the max, to the brink of melo-drama. With full orchestral music underlining a girl’s “artless” song, and Red Army cannons blazing away at the enemy, pic doesn’t pull its punches. Such theatricality, juxtaposed with thousands of real bricks strewn around devastated urban streets, can be quite thrilling.
As the heroine, the very beautiful, expressively tearful Radchenko seems directed in a dated salute to Lillian Gish. Tyro actress was never cast in another major role.