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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE terrible central event of ''Come and See,'' which takes up about a
quarter of the 2-hour, 22-minute Soviet movie, is the burning of a
Byelorussian village by German invaders in 1943. A line on the screen
tells us that hundreds of villages in the Soviet republic east of
Poland were destroyed, their people annihilated. The history is
harrowing and the presentation is graphic; you feel it through your
body as villagers are packed into a barn to be incinerated.
Powerful material, powerfully rendered by the director and co-writer Elem Klimov, yet the scene goes on for so long with such heavy-handed intrusions that you are left with a feeling of being worked on - which means the effects have stopped working. So it is with the movie as a whole, which won a grand prize at the 1985 Moscow international film festival.
In episodes that shift, sometimes subtly, sometimes startlingly, from down-in-the-mud realism to a dreamlike state, a boy named Florya endures the German invasion. His family is slaughtered; a friend, a beautiful young woman who wants only love and babies, is raped; he joins the partisans, is captured and nearly killed. He is our witness to the savagery of the Nazi onslaught against the peoples of Eastern Europe. But it becomes evident early on that young Florya, played by a grimacing Aleksei Kravchenko, serves Mr. Klimov mainly as a body through which he can display his directorial powers.
The inherent conflict between the director and the character with whom the audience is expected to identify becomes most troubling in a climactic scene that is poundingly effective taken by itself but makes no sense at all from Florya's point of view. We are asked to believe he has a vision of Hitler's career, running backward in time, from the German invasion to Adolf as babe in arms. You don't have to be unduly literal minded to realize as the newsreels are driving in reverse that this is not the vision of a peasant lad who hasn't been to the movies much. It's a movie maker's tour de force.
After years of running into troubles with his country's film authorities, Mr. Klimov was elected president of the Soviet Film Makers Union, a beneficiary of Mikhail S. Gorbachev's experiment in glasnost, or openness. Possibly the unorthodox style of ''Come and See'' would bother some cultural commissar, but there is little in its content to offend the authorized Soviet view of World War II. The partisans are comradely; the Germans are pulp villains, sadistic, cowardly, fanatic. ''Inferior races spread the microbe of Communism,'' declares one whose particular mission is to kill Russian infants. Not only does an SS officer drag a woman by her hair on the way to her fate worse than death but he also pauses to light a cigarette. Mr. Klimov can't leave bad enough alone.
The ending is a dose of instant inspirationalism. The camera makes its way through the forest to the accompaniment of a choir that soars and soars until we get a glimpse of the heavens, not the most original moment in the movie. Yet scene for scene, Mr. Klimov proves a master of a sort of unreal realism that seeks to get at events terrible beyond comprehension. He shows what he can do particularly after Florya has been deafened by bombs and we seem to be inside the boy's head, with the sounds of the outside world overwhelmed by his panting breaths; everything turns distant and ominous. Ominous enough without Mr. Klimov's intrusions, at the expense of his own unquestionable talent.
Forget "Saving Private Ryan", this is the real-story of who fought and
suffered the most during-WWII: ethnic-Slavs within the Soviet Union.
Most Westerners have little-or-no idea about what the Russian-front was
and what it means in the scope of human-history. Centered mostly around
the experiences of a young Byelorussian-peasant, this is what war is.
Klimov stated in interviews before his passing that a number of
elements came from his own experiences, and that he left-out many
horrors that were even-worse. Like Iraq, the invasion of the Soviet
Union was passed-off as a "preemptive" strike to stop
"Bolshevik-terrorists", when it was really about creating a German
settler-state that had been wiped-clean of Slavs by the Einsatzgruppe.
SS units often razed entire villages, leaving nobody alive. We see a
bit of this early-on in the film when the young-Byelorussian returns to
his village--to the sound of buzzing-flies. All of this was necessary
to the National Socialist-hierarchy to pay-off reckless loans that were
the backbone of the Nazi "economic-miracle". Taking territory, and
exploiting it was the only way Hitler and the Nazis had to do this.
There is a similar-dynamic to American-involvement in Iraq, right-now.
Proportionally, we are doing the same-thing, for the same-reasons. Not
all films are for entertainment, and Klimov wanted us to remember so
there wouldn't be another "Operation Barbarossa".
Klimov shows us that depopulation, and genocide was the reality on-the-ground, and this created megadeaths on both-sides due to the chaos of death-on-death, a terrifying chain-reaction. An unspoken, "take-no-prisoners" policy became a reality on both-sides due to Nazi-brutality. As-many as 28 million Slavs were annihilated by Hitler's policy of "lebensraum"(living-space). It is saddening that a film like this stands-out--we should not be shielded-from the realities of war, we should see it all so we know what war really is. This film captures the strange-beauty of chaos, too. There are moments that are shockingly-beautiful, even in war, which should give us pause. It is true that Klimov had his extras under the fire of real-bullets, which is crucial, and stunning. This was actually done in the early Warners gangster films, like "Public Enemy Number One"! Nobody will ever know how truly-horrible it all was, and yet, it is hardly ever noted in the mainstream of Western culture. We should be ashamed of the Cold War for this, alone.
Director Klimov was a unique director in the Soviet system, a genuine maverick with a vision of history as fateful. This is what makes him one of the finest of Russian-filmmakers, because he strikes upon what is important to the Russian-experience; the "Slavic-condition", if I may be so bold. It says a lot that this was Klimov's final-film, and that he felt he had said all he needed to as a Russian-director. It is an amazing-testament, too, to what was actually possible under the Soviet system, it contradicts what we think we "know" about it. Are films not truncated, buried and suppressed in our system, economically? Definitely. Are/were we so very different? The human-condition is often a distressing one, and history should make us more-wary of violence of any-sort. Violence never solves a problem, it merely creates more of them. Boring-cynics will say this is not-possible, but there have been centuries of peace in human-history before. Watch this film, and ask yourself if you would like to be in-the-middle of a war.
1.21.06-PS: As the situation deteriorates in Iraq, and the President continues to spy-on Americans, we should be learning from a film like this--liberty is hard-won, and there is a price-to-pay. Can we avoid war? I think so, and it will be hard-work, but a way to honor the war-dead.
This film was so powerful and so stunning in its realism, writing, cinematography, sound and editing that I get chills simply revisiting the film in my mind to write this review. The shots are as beautiful as they are horrifying. What starts as an innocent curiosity transforms into a humbling sequence of terrifying events that push the boundaries of sanity. Despite its intense depictions of human casualties and psychological warfare, the film does end on a redemptive note, and I highly highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in an original film that depicts the resolve of the human spirit in spite of the atrocities and horrors of war.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Come and See", a film directed by Elem Klimov is the paradigm of
anti-war films; brutal, sober, and gut-wrenching. From the darkest
moments of the film (The Church being burnt to ashes) to the "lightest"
moments of the film (Flyora and Glasha laughing at each other), Klimov
never lets go of the hell bound gas pedal.
Director: Elem Klimov, born July 9th, 1933, lived during the Battle of Stalingrad. In fact, his mother, her baby, and himself, had to evacuate from their home on a makeshift raft in order to survive (Wikipedia). Klimovs experience with this displacement is very apparent in Flyoras attempt to survive; florya is constantly leaving new friends and safe places in order to survive at all costs. Yet, what truly makes Klimov a special director is his unusual attempts to eek every last drop of acting out of Flyora and Glasha. For instance, Klimov has allegedly hypnotized Kravchenko to make him gaze empty looks of depression and hopelessness. As well, in the scene where Flyora and Glasha attempt to cross the boggy swamp, Klimov allegedly told the child actors to attempt to cross and all he would do is roll the camera. Talk about method direction!
Sound Track: Although most amateur directors think capturing images is the most important part of the film, what you hear is just as important. Of course, images from "Come and See" are astounding (Such as the long take of them walking across the swamp), but in that scene, it is the soundtrack that makes it even more dramatic and sensational. The swelling of low frequencies and the rumbling of muddy sounds feed off an eerie vibe that this swamp is not your average swamp; it is a death trap, sucking in hopeless children closer and closer to their death. And without the shrieks and moans of Glasha -- the yelps for parents that are dead, the moans for Gods that aren't there, the cries for friends that are murdered -- Come and See would not be the riveting and disturbing film it is. The sound track sets a tone of discomfort, where sitting in my chair watching the movie, it was the deep haunting frequencies that chilled my bones just as much as the fear stricken Russians.
Acting: Just as Italian Neo-Realist used amateur actors to convey a more gritty realism (Such as in films like the Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio De Sica), Klimov pulled Flyora and Glasha from Russias streets to star in his daunting epic. While this may seem crazy -- the idea of giving two amateur child actors the lead in a film -- the soul of Russia and real knowledge of the Mother countries sufferings translated seamlessly to their characters actions. In fact, Kravchenkos acting was so "method" that his hair turned blonde during filmmaking, and once again, he was under hypnosis nearly 50% of the time. While most people can easily look "scared" or "depressed" if they are an experienced actor, the gut feeling and soul feeling of knowing the unimaginable terror of war seen through the eyes can only be accomplished by either the $20 million dollar actors or the real actors who know the Russian war story.
Cinematography: The cinematography in "Come and See" is miraculous. At least every frame in the film deals with one of the five senses; smell, touch, taste, sight, hearing. Obviously, hearing and seeing are the easiest, but it the smell, touch, and taste that are more difficult to come by. In one scene where Flyora is back in his home and after it has been raided by Germans, he sits down at his table and eats food. Yet, it is clear to Glasha, and unclear to him, that his family has been kidnapped as everything in the house is thrown around and flies buzz in every corner. In this moment, viewers can smell the rotten stench of sweat, tears, spit, blood, and bad food just from the buzzing of flies, the eerie colors of the house, and the bloodied teddy bears strewn on the floor. When Glasha and Flyora walk through the swamp, viewers can almost touch the swamp, feeling the sticky and disgusting feel of thick mud encompassing their tiny bodies and wrapping around them, sucking them down into dirty brown water as it seeps through their childish pores. Even more, you can taste the burnt flesh of the village farmer as he lays on the ground with his skin rotting away and burnt to shreds. These scenes are not just haunting for their images, but for how the cinematography interacts with more than 3 of viewers senses at all times.
Overall, Come and See is a brilliant war story that never truly leaves the viewer for years to come. Nothing has ever scarred my mind and changed my views on war than "Come and See". To physically watch the life be sucked out of a child, not just in film, but in reality as well, is the most disturbing and saddening faucets of life. Eat before you see the film, because "Come and See" will definitely take you down a haunting, chilling, journey into the world of death and the city of hell.
The fact that my professor kept on assuring my class that we would never forget this film became worrisome at some point. Why was I not going to forget this movie? Was it scary? Would I not be able to sleep that night? The answer to the last two questions was yes, and the answer to the first was because it would truly be the most unforgettable film that I would ever see up to that point. The anxiety and depression that I experienced after the film was unbelievable-how could a film stir such a reaction from a person? I was in tears as I told my mother about the film. I couldn't stop thinking about it for several days, and I couldn't get Mozart's Requiem out of my head for a while. Viewing this film truly requires and demands the implementation of all 5 senses and more. It is the most effective and realistic war film that I have ever seen, and I feel that every person who is considering joining the armed forces should watch it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw a lot of WWII movies in my life but "Come and See" was surely one of the most impressive one. It's way of experiencing war not only through the eyes of a child but to actually feel how this journey changes him was one of the most horrifying as well as incredible experiences I every had. Elem Klimov managed to show the pure brutality and bestiality of war in the most incredible way I've ever seen. He not only made it possible for the audience to experience a sense of being deaf but furthermore he even makes you smell the smoke when ruthless German soldiers burn those innocent people. The most memorable scene for me was when Florya shoots at a picture of Hitler at the end thus using his pistol for the first time. After everything he had to endure this symbolic act was proof for me off how much he matured during only a few days. Ultimately he can't force himself to shoot at a picture of Hitler as a baby, which really makes you, the audience, think, not only about what would've happened if Hitler had never been born but also about the innocence of a baby and what must have happened to him in order to become such a monster. This is only one out off many scenes throughout this movie that really made me think about the nature of human beings and the horrifying truth about wars. This movie is certainly a Must See!
This is one of those rare situations where you can't really tell how you feel. Throughout this whole movie we continually get slapped kicked and punched by our emotions. There is no possible way we can all feel like the character in this movie, or even try to understand what he is going through. But if there was one possible way for the director to make us feel what he felt the director provided it for us, If there was one, and only one way for the movie to be directed and it definitely did that. There were points in the movie to where I had to turn my face away because the cruelty was just too much. He didn't even have to tells us, hey look at what these people did don't you hate them. NO he just told the story from a totally subjective view and sat back and let us draw our own conclusions.
This is a film like no others. It is horrible. Violent. Gruesome. It might
make you vomit. It made me sick for week, but I still think that it is the
best movie I have ever seen. There is no graphical violence - all is in the
head of the viewer.
Humankind is given a big slap in the face - this is more real than reality.
So my advice is - go and see. It will not leave you untouched.
My personal "best movie ever" prize goes to this one. I still shudder when I think about it, and It has been about 15 years since I saw it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was the perfect way to show the reality of what war is. It's
not glorious; it's not all about being a hero for your country; and
it's not about honor. It's extremely hostile, brutal, violent,
traumatizing, and heart wrenching. As a regular citizen you only see
the "honorable" side of it; but as soldier or even a family member of a
soldier you know otherwise.
Personally I believe that a message Klimov was trying to send to his audience is that this war was purely created by Hitler and if he did not exist WWII would have never happened. I came to this conclusion based on the regressive montage that occurs at the end of the film with the protagonist. As he shoots a picture of Hitler the screen cuts to scenes of Hitler and the tragic events of the war played BACKWARDS. It continues go to further and further back through this wars history to the point where it is a picture of baby Hitler and his mother.
What's great about it is that you get to hear the story of World War II from the perspective of the Russians (something our American textbooks don't necessarily do) and what THEY went through. It strikes you emotionally not only because their experience of the war was extremely sad and traumatizing, but also because Klimov's cinematography sucks you into the situation and creates deep and true emotion within you.
deep and sympathetic emoti.
I am not only speaking for myself, I am speaking for many of you out
there when I say that this movie makes such an impact on you and leaves
a scar of an unforgettable story.
It is not an antiwar movie, it is just a genuine portray of what war is all about. Without any censoring you get to experience the young boy Florian's horrific journey in Belarus throughout World War 2 where 628 villages were brutally and inhumanly destroyed by the Nazis. The most powerful impact about this movie is how the young boy's appearance changes during the course of the movie, before your eyes he literally changes and looks like an old man in the end.
I was left speechless for a while, never before has a movie made me use all my five senses, made me feel, smell and hear every second of the film. Elem Klimov is brilliant in the way that when you are just telling yourself "it is just a film" he takes you right back to Florian's atrocious reality.
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