Thursday, October 10, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Come and See (Иди и смотри) (Ідзі і глядзі) (1985)

So, this is less a horror film and more a horror of war film, but I'm going to make an exception. While I try to review or talk about or whatever 31 horror-things in 31 days, sometimes I feel the need to try something different. This Soviet film from 1985 is so incredibly different, psychologically scarring and, yes, terrifying, that I believe it truly belongs alongside of other horror movies, even if it isn't a silly little thing that makes you jump a little sometimes.

This movie, Come and See, directed by Elem Klimov,is quite possibly the greatest war film ever made, and also possibly the most accurate. It is set in 1943 and is centered around a young boy, Flyora, who wants to join the Soviet partisans who are fighting a guerilla war in Russia after being invaded by the Nazis. He finds a gun and joins up, only to be left behind very quickly. He meets up with a young woman who has some trauma of her own, and they decide to go back to his hometown before he goes back to the war effort. When they get there the town is sacked, his family is dead, and Flyora cannot easily accept it.

They both cross a bog in a truly intense scene to find a handful of survivors surviving on an island. One of the survivors is a badly burned man from the beginning of the film. Flyora then accepts the death of his family. As the story moves on, it becomes more horrific. Death seems to follow this young man, as the raiding team he goes with to find food are summarily killed one-by-one in various ways. He is left alone, helped by an old man, then taken in by Nazis. He stands by as a church with many Russian people inside is burnt down, killing them all but himself and a young woman who tried to save her child by rushing out of the church. Her child was thrown back in, and she was left to watch the execution of many.

After the burning, Flyora is left alone and broken as the woman is raped. The partisans come to kill the Nazis, too late for those in the church. The end of the movie shows that the Nazis are killed, but in a more merciful way. They are shot to death rather than burned. Flyora joins up, at the very end of the movie, with the partisans, leaving his village and childhood behind so he can fight this great and terrible threat.

That's a simplified plot. There is much more to it, but if you want to know it go and watch this movie. The horror here isn't in the story so much as in the way everything is shot, in how the movie is essentially about a boy losing his innocence, not to a woman or an ideal, but rather to death and blood. His journey is one of terror. Terror of the Nazis and their threat, the threat that so few could understand. It is the threat of cleansing, the threat of truly believing that others are less, the threat of reveling in death and mass-murder, and the threat of the inhumanity of war.

The emotional impact is exhausting. Having to watch the faces of these characters, their eyes and their thoughts, and seeing how they change over time. It's an ordeal of a movie, one for both the watcher and the characters. It is quite possibly the most visceral and effective anti-war film I have ever seen. It is also one of the most emotionally impacting films I have ever seen. The sounds of the movie are too much at times. The visuals are stunning and sickening. But it's really the acting and the directing that shine throughout. There are powerful moments on screen, moments that should never be forgotten, moments that should be watched by everyone so people, all people, can see the horror of war and what it does.

While World War II was obviously a bad war, it easily shows any and all wars, any and all conflicts. It is a movie that transcends the time it is about or the time it was made.

I don't know what else to say. While slasher movie and typical horror movies are creepy and scary and AHHHHH horror, this movie sticks with you in the dead of night. It affects you in a way that doesn't simply go away. It's a serious film for a serious audience, and I wouldn't tell anybody to go into watching this film lightly. It's scary in its reality. It's terrifying in what it portrays and represents. I don't think I'll ever forget the aftermath of the rape scene at the end of the movie, and how I almost felt viscerally sick, or how the burning down of the church made me clench my nails into the palms of my hands. It is a tough movie to get through, but the quality and the intensity is always there. I try to keep these October Nights as fun and enjoyable as possible, but if you want to truly be terrified, watch this movie and see the terrors of reality laid bare. I recommend this movie wholeheartedly but not lightly. It is disturbing and awful at times. That warning will always stand.

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