Monday, August 27, 2012

Russian Movies Week, Day 1: Иди и смотри (1985)

English Title: Come And See,
Studio: Belarusfilm, Mosfilm,
Director: Elem Klimov,
Screenplay: Ales' Adamovich, Elem Klimov,
Genre: War, Thriller, Arthouse,
Starring: Alexey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Lyubomiras Lautsyavichus

Soviet and Russian WWII movies are like one big franchise in itself. They span since the time when the actual war was taking place, up until now, occupying any genre imaginable - action, melodrama, mystery, horror, propaganda, comedy, etc. All those movies are beloved classics for both 'that' and current generations, as they portray heroism, willpower, patriotism (actually, in Russia and Ukraine, WWII is often called The Great Patriotic War or simply The War) of the Soviet people that helped them in defeating the Nazi scourge once and for all.

But among and aside those movies, there was one terminally controversial masterpiece that depicted The War in a scary, twisted, unglamorous way. For the time it was so shocking that they even had to station the ambulance cars near movie theaters, because not all the viewers were able to bear such a terrifying film. And even to this day it is still scary, painful, and is referenced countless times in all kinds of 'Top N war movies of all time' lists, say, on IMDB. I am talking about Elem Klimov's 1985 classic, 'Come And See'.

The story takes place in Belarus, 1943. Our main character, 'Flyora' (Florian) is a young boy who's hellbent on joining the Partisan (guerrilla) troops to kill as many Nazis as possible. He's taken away from the village to the nearest guerrilla camp stationed in the woods. There he meets Kosach, the squad leader, and Glasha, a young girl somehow hanging out with the Partisans. The first half of the movie doesn't even seem to be a war film in the common sense, as it's closer to arthouse, with almost surreal imagery and noisy soundtrack. But after Flyora and Glasha travel to a remote island to join a group of peasants that escaped from Nazis, the movie takes a turn to a more traditional war drama, as Flyora and three of the peasants go out to seek some food, steal a cow from a random collaborationist, but after being caught in a firefight, only Flyora survives and, unable to disembowel the dead animal (by the way, both live animal and ammunition were used in filming the firefight scene), he leaves only to find himself in a small village, most likely the tragically infamous Khatyn. This is where the movie's most well-known part starts off.

The Nazi Sonderkommand arrives onsite and starts mentally and physically abusing all the inhabitants. They laugh, drink beer, beat up and spit on the peasants, finally locking them in a church and burning it down. Flyora manages to escape the bonfire only to witness the consequences - a paralyzed old woman, a girl gang-raped in the truck, burning village, dying screams... One of my favorite moments is when a Nazi chick sits in a van, watching the village burning as she eats chicken like she's posing for a Vogue cover.

Later, after the Partisan ambush, we see her again, lying in a pile of corpses near the burning truck, bare-breasted, heavily breathing, with a string of blood rolling out of her mouth. And Flyora, he doesn't give a shit about her. You know Fraulein, war is not a glamorous thing, you know, people die there. Nazi bitch.

You see how emotional I get just when thinking about that movie. That's the whole point of it, to show the horrors of war and that it's a huge wrecking machine that kills people, no matter what's their attitude is. One thing I must address is the acting. Alexey Kravchenko is absolutely fantastic as Flyora, especially counting the dark and violent material that he had to work with. Some even said that he got nearly crazy during the filming, and the director even hired a hypnotist to help the young actor, but it all turned out okay in the end, as Kravchenko is still acting, starring in TV shows and remembering the filming of 'Come And See' with respect and admiration. Haley Joel Osment, eat your heart out.

The violence in this film is extremely graphic for a Soviet movie; some guy from the Disenteria forum even called it 'psychogore' due to strong depictions of both physically and mentally disgusting imagery. One of the most infamous scenes is a rape victim with a stupid whistle hanging out of her mouth:

...and the concentration camp stock footage:

Overall, this movie is definitely not the one to be watched with beer and chips. It's disturbing, depressing and violent, thousand times darker than any Soviet movie of the time, regardless of the subject matter. I can't really recommend it to anyone, so just a random fact: before watching this film, I openly acknowledged that I like the visual designs and style of Nazi uniforms. I know and agree that those were vile, horrible people enslaved by a vile, horrible ideology, but I still liked how they looked in their black and grey jackets with all the insignia attached. Now I hate them.

My Rating: 9 / 10