I have never seen anything else by Soviet filmmaker Elem Klimov, and it’s interesting how after making Come and See (1985)—and winning praise, including that of the notoriously fickle Soviet government—he never made another film. It’s interesting, but not surprising, since this would be a tough act to follow—and Klimov noted that this was the film he had always wanted to make. The idea (the government’s idea anyway) was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Russian victory over the Nazis, and it could be said that it works on that level. He even included some propaganda that includes a Nazi soldier declaring that the USSR has “no right to exist,” which feels like an unsubtle slap at the U.S. stance. But what he mostly made is perhaps the most terrifying, nightmarish film anyone has ever made about war. The film is very careful not to even get near anything that could be considered glorification. This is war as seen through the eyes of a young boy (who looks like wizened old man by the end of the film) as he becomes part of a ragtag group of soldiers in Belarus in WWII. It is stylized to a degree—with a brilliantly disturbing sequence where time runs hopelessly backwards—but it is also brutal, uncompromising, visceral and deeply horrific. A powerful work that should be seen.
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