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During WWII, a Belarusian boy is thrust into the atrocities of war, fighting with a hopelessly unequipped Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces. Witnessing scenes of abject terror and surviving horrifying situations, he loses his innocence and then his mind. Written by
I needed to have two hours and twenty odd minutes to watch this with out interruption. I didn't want to break it for any real reason or for any real length of time other than to change the disc (more on that later).
I had the time so I watched the movie.
I could argue that with two small flaws this is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made.
This is the SUBJECTIVE story of a boy who joins the partisans during the German invasion of Russian and his decent into hell.
This is a tough movie. its in your face and everyone else's, literally as we see everyone and everything that our hero does even to the point that if he's talking to someone the camera will hold on them as they speak with no cut aways. We learn everything about people by their faces since we have the time to study them. This is simply one of the few times where even if the film had had a different aspect ratio other than 1.33 (tv shape) I would rally to have it full screen rather than letterbox simply because for this movie you MUST lose yourself in what you see and hear. Having someone facing you, looking at you is more powerful when all you can see is their face. Faces are a landscape in this film.
This is especially true of Floyra, our hero who's stunned expression at all that happens around him is a constant source of wonderment.As we as shocked and rattled by what we see we know that he is even more rattled because he is there and he is expressing it on his face. Its said he was hypnotized to be able to get the right expressions, and seeing the pain on his face I believe it since you could only express what he is by living through it... Wide eyed numbness his mouth sometimes agape we watch as he tries to just get on...
The film as I said is subjective and we see and hear, literally, what Floyra does. When his hearing is thrown askew by shelling what we hear becomes less distinct. Sound will drift in and out and we get a sense of being there. The camera also holds on some scenes at times Not cutting away for better angles simply because Floyra doesn't have them.
This film will rock your world and then some.
I want to tell you everything about the film but at the same time fear that doing so will set up expectations as to what happens. Reading the material on the film and seeing the trailer set up some expectations in my mind, some of which was right and some was wrong. I would like to have you see the film knowing as little about what actually happens as possible so you experience the film straight. I lost my expectations the minute the film began and I was wondering what was going on... I was hooked as the long strange trip took over. I'm certain that once the film stats you will be free of expectations too but, at the same time I think if I told you too much it would ruin the what happens next.
This is GREAT film making.
That said there are two small flaws.
First, as some reviews have said the Germans, when they finally show up on screen are just a tad cartoony. menacing but slightly cartoonish...I could be wrong... but regardless through it all Floyra's pained expression cuts the cartoon away and reminds us this is bad stuff going down.
The second flaw is a montage of actual footage used near the very end. I know why it was done, or can guess, but its too long. It breaks the spell in some ways... I think it would have been more apt had the film had the original desired title of "Kill Hitler".
The last point I want to make is the fact the film is on two DVDs. Released two years ago there is no logical reason for the film to be broken into two parts, the tape is a single cassette release, except that like many films from the Russian Film Council its loaded with subtitles, 13 languages and three audio options. There is also other extras like an introduction by the film maker that runs 20 minutes, documentary footage and an interview with the lead actor. But I digress....
I'm certain that the film doesn't really need to be in two parts for any reason other than a technical one... except that in a strange way the break sort of works for the film if you watch it straight through taking only a break to switch discs. Call me crazy but the break is perfectly placed at the mid point to the story. Not only that the film changes from first half to second half. The tone , even though continuous in action, is different as the second disc begins. Its almost as if we are back at the beginning of the film at a peak that slowly slides downward. Time wise the two halves are different with the action taking place over a couple of jumbled days while the second is one continuous series of events over two days.
In the end all that matters is the film.
And here the film is absolutely great.
See it and be moved.
----------------------------------- random thoughts In its way its comparable to grave of fireflies The film that many people compare it to, Destiny of a Man, is a relation but not direct ancestor of it simply because the films are very different, Destiny taking place over years in Flashback, Come and See is happening here and now over weeks. They share themes and elements but the thrust and points are different, especially in the end...
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