Come and See (1985)

Director: Elem Klimov
Starring: Olga Mironova, Aleksei Kravchenko
Runtime: 146 mins
Rating: *****

Critically acclaimed upon its release, and clocking over 25 million admissions in the Soviet Union alone, Come and See is the tale of a child soldier, Florya, and his fight for survival in Nazi occupied Belarus. Despite its formidable success at the box office, Come and See is a film which has managed to glide under the radar into relative obscurity.

Finding that his village and home has been raided and all its inhabitants murdered, including his family, the young Florya finds himself alone in a desperate struggle for survival. As we follow him through war-stricken Belarus, we bear witness on the one hand to the systematic genocidal activities of the Nazi troops, and, on the other, to the misery of displaced communities of starving and homeless Belarusian civilians. A distressing mask of anguish begins to replace Florya’s once pure and youthful visage. His innocence is stripped from him, revealing to the child a grim and premature knowledge of the horrors of war. With each successive scene of misery and terror, we share in this knowledge, and our senses are assaulted. Fleeting glimpses of hope are quickly stolen away from us, presenting a view of war which is unflinching, shocking and traumatic.

Horrific as it may be, the film exudes an eerie and indefinable beauty. Klimov creates an emotional landscape which leaves the viewer so wrought with tension and sorrow that its climax feels dizzying and euphoric in its intensity. Filmed using live ammunition, and portraying Nazi war crimes with graphic brutality, this film is not for the faint-hearted, but those daring enough to sit through it will certainly reap the rewards.

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