Come and See DVD
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Directed by Elem Klimov
Produced in 1985
Main Language - Russian with English subtitles
The year of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War saw the release of several war films in the Soviet Union, many of which were mediocre and decidedly unremarkable. However one film, winner of the top prize at the Moscow Film Festival, stands undoubtedly as one of the most uncompromising, harrowing war films ever made. It is a film that blends the epic scope of the Socialist Realist film with the personal, poetic sensibilities of films such as Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying (1957) and Chukhrai’s Ballad of a Soldier (1959).
Based on actual events, Elem Klimov’s Come and See depicts the brutality of Nazi invaders in the Belorussian village of Khatyn through the horrifying odyssey of Flor (Alexei Kravchenko), a naïve teenage boy who leaves his family to join the partisans.
Klimov employs all the aesthetic devices at his disposal (widescreen photography, stereo sound) to plunge the viewer into a hellish, apocalyptic world. Indeed it is the medium more than the narrative itself which conveys the horror of war. Klimov’s mobile, muscular camera follows Flor as he makes his way across a devastated landscape. The images are accompanied by an extraordinarily complex, multi-layered soundtrack and both elements serve to reflect the ordeal of the film’s young protagonist whom we see losing any remnants of childhood innocence as the film spirals toward the epic savagery of the final scenes.
Featuring a powerful, grueling performance by Kravchenko, Klimov’s Come and See is an essential war film, more than deserving of mention with Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962) and Wajda’s war trilogy of the 1950s.
Hailed as one of the greatest war films ever made, Come and See is a hallucinatory cinematic experience that does for World War II what Apocalypse Now did for the Vietnamese conflict. Recounting the devastating Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union through the experiences of a young boy in Belarus, the film also includes some of the most frighteningly realistic battle scenes ever committed to celluloid, thanks to Klimov's insistence on using live ammunition during filming to ensure maximum authenticity.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 137 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 5th December 2011
Cat No: ART564DVD
by Anon on 10th August 2006
Most reviews of the film that I have seen rate it as outstanding cinema (although I should acknowledge that the positive reviews are all on sites selling the movie!). ... Read on
Most reviews of the film that I have seen rate it as outstanding cinema (although I should acknowledge that the positive reviews are all on sites selling the movie!). Indeed, I bought the film based upon these reviews and the subject matter.
Even allowing for the fact that Eastern European cinema is unlikely to set the world alight, this offering is depressingly poor. Clearly a limited budget offering, this constraint does not excuse the inept, wooden "acting", where most of the characters are little more than ridiculous stereotypes, or the inane dialogue which runs throughout.
The "lead" character becomes more and more of a comical figure as the movie progresses. His change of mood and demanour throughout the film is of course designed to reflect the growing horror that he experiences. Unfortunately, the only way in which the "actor" can portray this is by pulling more and more comical facial expressions.
The one genuine attempt at horror in the film comes near the end and deals with the massacre of a village by the German army. The Germans are naturally depicted as murderous brutes but, again, the obvious stereotyping and poor acting take away from the potential tension of the scenes. Again, an opportunity to display the revulsion of war is missed. Incidentally, it is unclear, and wholly incompatible, that our "hero" is spared after the German officer holds a gun to his head for the camera (the image shown on the front of the movie).
The finale to the movie again reaches comical proportions after the partisans capture some of the German soldiers. (It is unclear how this happened, but never mind.) Once again, the acting and dialogue plumb new depths.
Overall, this is a very poor piece of cinema and misses a very real opportunity to make a statement. I understand that the director retired after this work. Most imply this is because he achieved perfection. I can only assume that, in reality, this movie finished his career for other reasons.
Come And See stands no comparison with other serious war films. The movie is painful viewing, but not for the reasons intended. Hide
by Anon on 3rd April 2006
What really can be said about this? Without doubt the best piece of Russian propoganda since Eisenstein turned up his toes. Believe me when I say, that is intended as ... Read on
What really can be said about this? Without doubt the best piece of Russian propoganda since Eisenstein turned up his toes. Believe me when I say, that is intended as a compliment. The Nazis are leering, smirking, insane psycopaths. The hero a naive farmboy going insane from his experience, the violence, brutality and inhumanity as expressionistic, impressionistic and ugly as anyone could possibly wish for. From its opening scenes of the two boys searching for weapons, to its final image of a photograph of Hitler as a sweet child sitting on his mother's lap and everything inbetween, the message is hammered home with relentless single mindedness. None of which should come as any suprise considering the horrendous losses experienced by Russia during the war. Klimov's early death (as was his wife's) was a great loss to any film industry, anywhere, and this film, beyond any other that I am aware of, should be compulsory viewing for every school kid taking a tentative step into the realms of bigotry and intolerance. A warning to the wise. Hide
“Come and see”
by Peter Ludbrook on 23rd October 2009
I bought this movie having read lots of good reviews about it on Amazon. I found it very disappointeing. Some of the dialogue is inane (poor subtitling?), the plotting... Read on
I bought this movie having read lots of good reviews about it on Amazon. I found it very disappointeing. Some of the dialogue is inane (poor subtitling?), the plotting incomprehensible (Has it been cut?) and the the acting by the male and female leads inadequate. The village massacre is credibly done yet is spoilt by the wooden acting. I wasn't moved by this movie and I won't be watching it again.
Peter Ludbrook Hide
“Ignore the naysayers - this is a masterpiece”
by S J COLTRANE on 7th March 2013
It's difficult to get my head around the negative reviews others have given this film. It's true that subtlety isn't Klimov's forte (he's Russian, for heaven's sake, h... Read on
It's difficult to get my head around the negative reviews others have given this film. It's true that subtlety isn't Klimov's forte (he's Russian, for heaven's sake, he's wearing his heart on his sleeve); but frankly if you're going to go over the top, make it compelling and do it with a purpose. And this film is more than flashy nonsense - far, far more. I won't hesitate to call it a masterpiece. Flawed, yes, but a masterpiece.
It's true that the characters are largely avatars for different aspects on the war - innocent children, sadistic Nazis, principled partisans - but the film is not so much about them as about the overall emotional context of war. From one impressive set piece to another, Klimov examines the imposition of unflinching horror onto people who just want to get on with their lives (as Glasha says, to love to have children). Like cruel adults breaking up a children's game, the Nazis come into this innocent world and destroy it, depriving the inhabitants of their comfort, their mental health, their dignity and eventually their lives.
It is mostly through technical means that Klimov turns this into a masterpiece. The camerawork, almost entirely Steadicam, is smooth and fluid, nearly every scene in deep focus to reveal the openness of the landscape - there really is nowhere to hide. At times the camera itself is like a dispassionate, documentary observer of horror, much as it is in 'Schindler's List' and 'The Pianist'; at other times, the actors are looking straight into the lens, as if it were acting as their confessor (or maybe counsellor). Indeed, the film's title stands over so many of these shots - come and see. The emphasis is on the characters' seeing, their eyes fixed on unspeakable things, wanting to look away but unable to.
In addition to this, Klimov's sound design is possibly the best I have ever encountered in cinema. Spielberg gave us ringing rifle shots in 'Saving Private Ryan', but Klimov beat him to it in 'Come and See'. Yet there's far more too it than that - Klimov mixes in screams, gunfire, birdsong, snatches of orchestral music, the buzzing of flies and in particular a constant, unsettling electronic hum which intensifies to painful level when the protagonist Florya is rendered deaf by explosions.
Incidentally, I don't concur with the opinions in other reviews that the acting is wooden. I found it authentic, alive and in keeping with the film's slightly heightened tone. Maybe it's because I have some Russian, I don't know.
If the (overlong) rewinding of newsreels at the end may strike cynical, 21st-century viewers as a bit obvious, this isn't where the film is most effective. The most compelling sequences are when Florya finds out his family is dead and, in a moment of psychosis, plunges into a bog to try and find them, and of course the torching of the village by the Nazis near the end of the film. Both sequences are characterised by overcrowded, relentless audio and extended, very physical action which, like the war itself, seem to go on and on without respite. You want to say, surely it can't be as bad as this? Surely it wasn't so awful? - yet you know it was, and this is what gives the film its tragic extra punch.
I'm so glad I bought this film as I would happily watch it again and again. I'm only sorry I had to wait until my mid-40s to discover it. Why isn't it better known in this country? Hide
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