Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Come and See

Elem Klimov, 1906-96, USSR, 1985, 2 hours

"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."...Bible

Few films depict the horror of war so powerfully as this one. It has been recently anointed a Great Movie by Ebert, which is what brought me to it. It describes the German invasion of Belarus during WW2. Two million lives were lost. The central sequence in the film depicts how the inhabitants of a Jewish village are burnt alive. This chronicles the historical fact of over six hundred villages which suffered this fate at the hand of the Nazis.

The beauty of the coniferous forest with shafts of sunlight pouring through the foliage into the lush undergrowth of ferns contrasts with the heaps of bodies and the gore of torn blood-splattered limbs. The hues of a lush sun sprayed woodland in an oblique way parallel the colors of a splattered body with the organs bulging out. The carnage becomes all the more terrible as we view it through the eyes of a pair of beautiful teenagers. Older people become immunized to anything and children may lack understanding but adolescence is an age when one's capacity for feeling is at a peak. The boy becomes partially deaf from the explosions and his muted humming world revolves dizzily as he wakes out of innocence in a short period. The stunning beauty of the countryside is captured in rainbow colors by the camera even as the enemy's murder machine closes like a vice and men, women and children are crammed into barns before being set aflame.

The sheer coldness of calculation and machine like efficiency of the invaders reveals the depths of evil to which human beings are capable of sinking. Such events seem to have been the rule rather than an exception in the annals of our past. Vindication comes with the gunning down of the chief Nazi officer and some others. The movie closes with a documentary like montage on the rise and fall of the Hitler-phenomenon. This is a film of breathtaking beauty and power and surely one which expands one's vision of the collective past.

Roger Ebert's review


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a movie that one may never want to see again, but should see once.

S M Rana said...

The razing of the entire population of a village was reminiscent of the exhumation scene in Schindler's List.