1985, Movies

Idi i smotri [Come and See] (1985, Elem Klimov)

This is a vivid, gorgeously shot Soviet war film that often feels like a horror film. It’s certainly a unique experience and its third act is pretty hard to watch.

The filmmaking is quite distinct for a war film: there are just a ton of close-ups, the audio is often just dialogue, with extremely little foley, and there is so much fog. Certainly until they go looking for food, it feels far more like a horror film, in terms of the way it is shot, rather than a conventional war film. This makes sense in some sense, given how awful war is, and how awful the things depicted in this film are.

The other way the fil is unique is in terms of what it’s about: the Belarussian partisans fighting against the Germans behind enemy lines in 1943. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve seen another film on this subject. And it’s a horrific one, which is what I was alluding to when I said the third act was hard to watch. There were some massacres in Eastern Europe, as we know, and some of them were in what is now Belarus.

Despite its unique style, or perhaps because of its unique style, the film works pretty well. It’s certainly full of memorable scenes and shots which stay with you well after the movie ends.

My biggest quibble is the ending, in which footage of the holocaust and of Nazism in general, is just interspersed into the film, some of it running backwards. For nearly its entire run, it’s a film that is focused entirely on this tiny part of modern day Belarus and then, suddenly, we’re shown the wider world, and with a dose of historical perspective that wouldn’t have existed in 1943. It feels like a misstep and, worse, it feels like propaganda. (I do wonder if it was forced on the filmmakers, given how hard it was for them to make this movie.)

But otherwise, this is a unique and horrible war film. Well worth your time.


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