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In the Fog depicts the decisions that people are forced to make during
times of conflict where they are no longer masters of their own fate,
but victims of circumstances beyond their control.
Suchenya, the main protagonist, is confronted with choices that no one will ever want to make but, along with other characters in the film, is forced to make them. The story is not so much the consequences of those decisions that determine the characters' fate but the unexpected events that unfold as a result of those decisions.
This is an slow moving but thoughtful film about impossible choices some of us are forced to make that profoundly shape our futures.
The scene where Suchenya's interrogator waves to him would have to be one of the cruelest waves ever seen in a movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Loznitsa's MY JOY was one of the very best films of 2010, and so I was very much looking forward to seeing this. Whilst it is not as ground- breaking and arresting as the earlier film, it is still a fine entry in the long-standing tradition of the (ex-)Soviet war film... The setting is Belarus under German control, calling Klimov's COME AND SEE to mind, but this is a much more low-key, sober, elegant film concerning the muddy morality and conflicted ethical choices of war-time. Its quasi Jesus-like central figure recalls Shepitko's THE ASCENT, but whilst Shepitko's Jesus is sacrificed, Loznitsa's finds that suicide can be the only solution to the ethical dilemma of how to be Good in an internecine war. In a situation where to do nothing is collusion, where to be spared death is seen as collaboration with the enemy, where betrayal and suspicion are stronger than loyalty and solidarity, there is no room for virtue. This bleak world-view echoes the darkness of MY JOY, but in this film, Oleg Mutu's typically brilliant cinematography is bright and sharp, luminous. Beautiful forests surround the sinful and sinning characters; the irony of the beautiful world in which human ugliness takes centre stage.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A film from Belarus? There's always a first time, although actually
this is a co-production: Germany, Netherlands, Belarus, Russia, Latvia.
Set in World War Two when the invading Germans occupied Belarus, then part of the USSR, the film's title refers to the fog of war, in which participants only see the part never the whole. It also refers to the moral fog of war, whether to collaborate with the new masters or resist with the old. This is the dilemma confronting Sushenya who opts for the pacifist solution - and suffers for it.
Indeed the film is an account of his 'via crucis'. It immediately brought to mind Prince Myshkin in Dostoyevsky's 'The Idiot' (Sushenya constantly being called an idiot) but more pertinent is the recollection of the donkey Balthasar in Bresson's 'Au Hasard Balthasar'. Balthasar is the intelligent but mute witness to the sufferings of humanity around him, and a victim too. Indeed Sushenya's insistence on trying to carry the wounded Burov on his back to safety makes of him, like Balthasar, a beast of burden.
I would hesitate before concluding that the director, Sergei Loznitsa, is steeped in 'Au Hasard Balthasar', let alone all of Bresson's work (although the forest scenes certainly have their echo in Bresson's 'Mouchette', again perhaps more by coincidence than design) but there are strong Bressonian virtues in the film. 1) The flashback structure gives us effects before causes, a key narrative strategy of Bresson's; 2) the protagonists are closer to Bressonian 'models' than actors, since their faces are quite new to Western audiences and Loznitsa directs them to speak in a subdued manner; 3) no music to tell us what to feel! God (who invented music) be praised; 4) Loznitsa withholds judgement, presenting the story 'without ornaments' (as Bresson said of his 'A Man Escaped').
In the subtlest of ways, Loznitsa sketches Sushenya as a Christ figure. With his beard, his tousled hair and his long face, he seems to step out of an icon-painting. And at the end, sitting between Burov and Voitik, he is Christ flanked by the two thieves.
The film uses few really long takes and this works really well in some
instances to create tension. Some scenes in In the Fog are really
impressive and the first long tracking shot of the hanging of the three
railroad workers really captures your attention. The Romanian film 4
Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days used long takes like this to great effect
but this movie doesn't quite reach the effectiveness of that movie
overall despite some striking scenes. It isn't surprising that these
movies reminded me of each other because they both had the same
cinematographer, Oleg Mutu. That movie did a better job in creating
that crushing atmosphere and it had better and more expressive actors.
4 Months really glued me to the screen as every single scene provided
more information or improved the atmosphere and so on. Here many scenes
seem either completely pointless or they're simply too long. For
example, at one point a man comes out of a forest and starts walking
towards a house. Great, I got it. Instead the movie decides that this
scene should go on for a complete minute with the camera staying put
following the guy slowly walking across a field. What did those tens of
extra seconds really provide? Nothing other than boredom.
I thought the acting was a bit too understated to really take full advantage of the long takes. You would think a bleak situation like this would bring out some passion or emotion from someone for a moment at least. It's hard to say if the actors delivered the lines really well or not because I don't speak Russian. I'm sure native speakers can really pick up on tones and other smaller things and get more out of the movie. It was also unclear at times who was speaking in some scenes because everyone was talking in that same monotone voice. I had a bit of a problem with the pacing because the movie jumps many months very suddenly from fall to winter with flashbacks and so on, it took a while for me to figure that out.
The movie did highlight many interesting things about the randomness of war and the moral complexities of occupation. There should've been more discussions in the film though, I'm sure it couldn't have been that hard to come up with some topics relating to the dire situations of the main characters for them to talk about. I also appreciated the efforts the movie made towards being authentic, I really believed it was the 1940s again. The actors wear cloth wraps instead of socks for example so there's really nothing anachronistic there to take you out of the movie. It's a decent movie all in all but not a masterpiece or anything.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's very hard for a movie to get a perfect 10/10 from me. Well, after
a very weak season of Hollywood movies, I decided to take a look at
this one that was screening in one of the theaters of my town, as part
of the independent foreign circuit. And it was mesmerizing!
The movie is veeeeeeeeeeeeeery slow. Yes, no action and not much dialog, it's all about the visuals telling the story, some ability that Hollywood seems to be lacking along the years. Thank God we can always count with European cinema. In the Fog (V Tumane) is a very strong, bitter and moving portrait about the 1942 USSR and the conflicts concerning the bellic race. It's one of the most poetic and moving anti-bellic movies I've ever seen.
The photography is simply amazing, portraying the agonizing situation of the main protagonist that goes on a road trip with only one purpose: dying. As the very visual story progresses you see the pain that each character is going through, you witness the horrors of those conflicts in a slow-paced agonizing and self-contained fashion. You start to get sensitive with each characters journeys and disillusions as we go deeper into their stories. And when the fog finally comes to makes us "witness" the final resolution... you start realizing how deep the decisions and the speech about life x death can sink us if we let the memory lane carry us throughout whichever path you choose.
It's a mesmerizing and visually stunning experience, thought-provoking and very elegant that you just can't miss.
dark, slow, cold. slice from recent history. more than a movie, a reflection support. because it is not the story of a character but the story of a generation. it is not only a film who reminds Stalker by Tarkovsky but tool for discover a side of every day reality. a film about choices and profound cruelty. about the thin line between justice and errors. and about the real purpose of a life. a film who is not easy to see. because it seems be boring and cold and neutral and to simple or too confuse. in fact, it is a testimony. far by American blockbusters, using the old Russian cinema marks. a honest movie. that is all. simple, direct,cold, slow, dark, page from recent history.
In The Fog is a film about a Soviet man, who gets released by the
Germans instead of hanging him for sabotage, so everybody among the
Soviets thinks he's a traitor. But he also can't cope with his guilt,
so he's willing to be executed by the Soviet guerrillas.
In The Fog is unlike any other war movie. It's based on a very interesting moral dilemma, and actually has a pretty good story to back that up. The cinematography and the atmosphere are also great. But it's so boring, that it almost hurt. And I don't mean by that, that it's slow, because it's not just that. There are a lot of scenes, where nothing happens. Literally minutes, when the camera is just tracking the characters walking or staring into nothing. I think half of the movie consists of walking through the woods. I feel sorry for this film, because it could have been even an all-time classic, but most of the time I was just bored to death.
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