Come & See
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When young Florya willingly joins a group of Partisans fighting the Nazis in Byelorussia, U.S.S.R., he little suspects that he is plunging through the looking glass. Separated from his comrades during a paratroop attack and struck deaf by German artillery, Florya - in the company of Glascha, a beguiling peasant girl - wanders a battle-scorched Russian purgatory of prehistoric forests and man-made slaughter. Florya's journey takes him and us through a gallery of exquisitely poetic imagery and brutal human atrocity.
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Thus we are left with a film of such power as this, looking at us like the voices and pictures of an extinct people which we can still understand.
Really I cannot say anymore as this movie is beyond words as it takes an unflinching look at the dark side of human nature as it intersects with simple people who merely wish to live their lives.
Like the young boy in the film my father and his best friend witnessed the extermination of an entire village [ this was related to me in the most matter of fact way possible as a commentary on the stunned silence of contemporary German audiences in reaction to Schindler's List, which my father and that same friend watched in that country. Quote, ' They had no idea what had been done because they could not even imagine what we had seen with our own eyes.'] Btw, the accurate translation of this movie is, Go and Look. And also like the boy, my mother went deaf for a period of several months during a bombing raid. And yet what they, their friends, older siblings and my grandparents experienced was even worse than what was depicted in this film: freezing winters, fighting, hunger, camps, forced labor, so perhaps I could not get on board with the director's vision, which is often distancing and a bit absurd, to my mind, in the wrong places.
Spoilers: I do understand the depiction of the boy's experience -incomprehensible and surreal to him - are related in just that way, and the horrors he has witnessed are reflected on his ever more stricken face, but the silliness of the partisan troop, the life affirming (?) dancing in the forest ( watch Aparajito to see how well this sort of thing was done by the master Satyajit Ray), the comical (?) near hysteria of the mother in the opening sequence, the bovine placidity of the peasants (offensive) just didn't ring true to me.
I can see how those who have mainly watched polished Hollywood productions would find this film devastating, but to me, the most terrible and brilliant anti-war films ever made were Japanese - unexpected given the horrendous human rights record of the Imperial Army during the war. Amazon has Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition which truly is a world masterpiece, and Kon Ichikawa's more lurid but still great Fires on the Plain and The Burmese Harp. Well worth seeing and will elevate the viewer well beyond the horror of the events depicted. Viewers can google to see the trailers.