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Come And See
(Idi I Smortri)
USSR - 1986
Directed by Elem Klimov


The film, set in 1943 depicts the German invasion of ByeloRussia and follows the story of a young child and failed partisan, Florya, and the effects the war have on him.

The film is reminiscent of Dante's Inferno as one sees what starts off as a child turn into a shell, a shadow of his former self. He sees first, his village and family wiped out and then a nearby town being ethnically cleansed.

The film is harrowing to watch and the images can be almost unwatchable, not even the most insensitive of audiences could fail to be affected. However Come and See is balanced by a lyrical poeticism, particularly where Florya and a partisan girl Rose, visit the forest after the bombing, Florya's tinitus due to the bombing and an injured stork wandering through the clearing symbolising the disorientation of Mother Russia. This scene in the forest is probably one of the most beautiful scenes shot in cinema, while always leaving one aware of the imminent danger it is juxtaposed with.

Klimov was famous for his historical fact-based films, breaking barriers by being the first Russian film-maker ever to feature Rasputin and duly landing himself in deep water. However what perhaps does not become apparent until the end of the film was this was an ethnic cleansing on a huge scale with many entire towns and village simply being torched because the cryogenically obsessed Nazis felt they were of "inferior stock."

The figures tally up to similar levels as were killed in the Holocaust but, due to Cold War propaganda, this is rarely a fact that pops up in Western history books. It was however used to "educate" East German teenagers and several former East German friends who I met were forced to watch this film to educate them about the possibility of another rise of Fascism when the GDR was still in the Eastern Bloc.

Come and See is essentially an anti-war movie. Although the film is "emotionally devastating", with the main character turning from innocent child to war weary shell, the beautiful scenes in the forest compensate for it.

The film won the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival and Klimov has recently been named Head of the Russian Film makers Union.

Probably the most visually stunning film this reviewer has ever seen - definitely one to COME AND SEE.

Runtime: 142 minutes.

Review by Stephen J Brennan
Taken from EUFS Programme 1997-98

Copyright ? 1995-1998 Edinburgh University Film Society


Guest Comments

From:  "Jeff"

"Absolutely the most powerful anti-war, anti-genocide film I have seen. It is harrowing yet lyrical. Any student of film or history should see this film."


From:  "K Regan"

"I agree 100% with the review of this stunning film.  The western media will never celebrate this masterpiece and it will probably remain a, ""Cult"", film - this is sad, because the film is a genuine masterpiece."


From: "Eman"

"Epic journey into a boys heart and mind as he experiances the pain of war. 10 out of 10!"


From: "Juliette Crooks"

"Klimov's Come and See is quite simply the most powerful antiwar film ever made. What is stunning about this film is a formidable combination of exquisite camerawork, the most innovative and intelligent use of sound (which transcends the notion of simple spectator/viewer as it audibly engages its audience), attention to detail (insightful and sometimes bizarrely comic) and above all a sensitivity and understanding which crosses all linguistic and national barriers. Flor is not unique - he is any one of us passing from youthful fantasy into realisation of the horror that is the adult reality of War. Makes Private Ryan look like Donald Duck, and Apocalypse Now look like Dangermouse at best...Come and see."


From:  "Jax"

"What struck me the most in this horryfing film was accidentality of the human fate during the war. War becomes here something abstract, far and near at the same time, like the unknown monster which takes more nad more human lives. Od course film has also factographic side and is dedicated people from over 600 burned Byelorussian vilages."


From:  "Norman D. Plum"

 "This is an extraordinary film because of its ability to create in the viewer a reasonable facsimile of horror. It begins with a odd game between an old man and two young boys; the old man reappears in the second portion of the film, burned and charred, barely alive, but chastising the boy because "he kept digging." The boy takes this to heart and carries with him the guilt of innocence. He does not realize that he didn't create the inhuman monster that is the Nazi soldier. The game becomes an analogy for the dangers of "digging" into the past. The sound track is disorienting; the protagonist Flor is temporarily deafened by bomb blasts, and we are hearing the war through his ears; and it is frightening. The sounds are of ringing, underwater gurgling and perhaps the sound of fear as it is heard unfiltered in our minds. Other times, the music is an angelic chorus that matches the primordial beauty of the forests of Byeolorussia. The sounds of the gunfire is equally powerful, hitting the viewer like a stray bullet. In one scene, as a barn full of ethnic byeolorussians burns, Nazi soldiers applaud at the crackle of the flames and screams of the poor wretches inside. There is no hope in this world Klimov has created. Perhaps the most telling visual analogy is a scene in which two young people, Flor and Glascha, stumble and claw their way through a bog. It is Adam and Eve evicted from innocence and comfort crawling from the Garden of Eden into the hopelessness of a godless world. The movie's weakness in my opinion is found in the ending which cuts away to concentration camp footage. The graphic imagery of death and slaughter has already been shown to us in the rest of the story and the authentic footage feels "tacked on" to make a point. A point which has already been driven home to the viewer through the rest of the film. See this movie. It will move you."

 

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