Weekend Movie Picks is a segment at Shoton35.com, where every 2 weeks on Friday I will pick a movie that’s shot on 35mm film and tell you something about it.
| After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II.
There isn’t any other war film that was as penetrating on an emotional level to me as ‘Come and See’. This is one of the most powerful war films I’ve ever seen. I’m one of those people that, when I watch a film, I imagine myself in the situations presented on screen. I wonder how I would react to those scenarios, how I would go about doing everything. Perhaps that’s the reason why I felt so horrible and loathing because no one would ever want to undergo what this young boy had to endure. Imagine Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood being remade by Sam Peckinpah at his grittiest, most cerebral zeitgeist. The events in the movie aren’t dramatized too much and the film manages to keep a great sense of realism. At the same time it achieves an excellent surrealistic atmosphere by contrasting this young boy to the horrors of war that surround him.
The film’s title is from the Book of Revelations, referring to the summoning of witnesses to the devastation brought by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. ‘Come and See’ is an invitation for its youthful protagonist to arm up and investigate the war, but also one for the audience to tread a similarly terrible path, witnessing with vivid immediacy the Belorussian holocaust at close hand. Here, the intensity of what is on offer justifies amplification by the use of steady cam, point-of-view shots, and some startlingly surreal effects pointing up unnatural events: the small animal clinging nervously to the German commander’s arm for instance, soundtrack distortions, or the mock Hitler sculpted out of clay and skull.
Come and See is a memory about war. A people’s memory about the war. And it was meant to be a people’s film. That is, the recollections of the most horrible moments of the war. On the other hand, the main thrust, the main point, of this film was directed towards the present. It stands as a warning for all about war itself. Or, I might say, a passionate warning against war.
– Elem Klimov
Elem Klimov shot this film in a very detached, dream-like style, while simultaneously infusing it with the most stark realism. The landscape of Bielorussia plays a big part in the film, with its grimy swamps and desolate fields. The dirtiness of war shines through as well, which makes it feel even more brutal and real. Alexei Rodionov’s fluid camerawork creates a startingly real visual world, with lush landscapes and skylines contrasted sickeningly with the chaos and destruction, unafraid of shards of colour, miles away from Hollywood’s fetish for unattractive near-monochrome. Viktor Mors’ sound effects however, play the most important role in the whole experience. Working in tandem with Klimov’s visual motifs Mors creates a vast sonic wilderness of haunting, uncomfortably noises, mimicking Florya’s affected hearing, but also carefully threading together inidividual aural details, from woodland birds to raindrops, to the heart-piercing cries of horror and laughter in the killing of the townspeople.
Where most war movies bombard the viewer with repulsive images, Klimov does everything he can to take you right out of your comfort zone, so that you’re not merely disgusted or shocked, but you are rocked to the very bottom of your soul. That he does it without being opportunistic, propagandistic, sentimental, pessimistic, xenophobic or solipsistic isa tremendous credit on his part.
To come right to the point, Come and See is both an antifascist film and an antiwar film. Although some have also implied that it is an anti-German film, too. This is not true. It was never meant to be an anti-German film. So I’ll emphasize it once more: it is an antifascist and an antiwar film. Another very important purpose in the making of that film was to talk about a human being. What is a human being all about? What are the limitations of a human being? What are the extremes to which a human being can be brought? As Dostoevski once wrote: “A human being is a beast in you that you can face, and it faces you.” A human being under certain circumstances can discover in himself some horrible things. That he, as a human being, can fall so low. That is what I tried to depict in Come and See. And that’s why we set out to show in the film a human being near his limits. And sometimes even beyond his limits. To show just what is a human being. And such a task are the most important in the world of art.
– Elem Klimov
Kravchenko’s portrayal of this young, lonely figure is nothing less than incredible. He shows anger, love, sadness and hate and fills his boots with the challenging character in a way I’ve never seen a young actor do in my lifetime. Considering Kravchenko was only 14 at the time of filming; it makes his sombre, penetrating performance even the more magnificent. Kravchenko’s chemistry which the character of Glasha, of whom he encounters early on, is without a doubt one of the strongest elements of the film. In the strangest of ways, the scenes between the two in the first act of the film allow the audience to connect with their desperation and trials and tribulations, creating several bloodstained emotional rollercoaster’s along the way. Desperation is one of the most essential, and expected elements of any war movie, but in this particular depiction of war, it is at its most effective and terrifying.
Come And See was not an easy shoot. It lasted over nine months and during the course of the action the young cast were called upon to perform some unpleasant tasks including, at one point, wading up to their necks through a freezing swamp. Kravchenko’s face is unforgettable during this and other experiences, and there were claims that he was hypnotised in order to simulate the proper degree of shell shock during one of the major early sequences, but Kravchencko turned out not to be susceptible to hypnosis and had to pretend all the way. The young actor claimed later in a interview that live bullets were used during filming and he described actual bullets passing some 10 centimeters above his head.
Come and See is a surreal, disturbing, and intense coming of age film, hypnotic and horrific in equal parts. Director Elem Klimov never made another film after it saying;
“Everything you could do with cinema I had already done.”
It is one of those films that can affect the viewer emotionally and leave you sitting in a state of awe and consternation. To be honest, it is a landmark film that deserves the reputation it has. See it for a true visual experience of the horrific realities of the Nazi-Soviet war.