Thursday, April 7, 2011

FI: Come and See (Idi i smotri)

Come and See (Idi i smotri)
USSR, 1985
Directed by Elem Klimov

I don't know what your expectations might be, heading into a late Soviet-era Russian WWII film, but I don't think Come and See is interested in conforming to anyone's expectations. The film is a dark, loose journey through the horrors of war, from the perspective of Florya (Aleksei Kravchenko), a young Belorussian boy eager to join the resistance against the Nazis. Klimov treats war as an engine of total loss, where family, allies, friends, whole villages, and (ultimately) the self are lost to death, fire, and madness. He alternates between flowing, dreamlike steadicam shots and direct-address close-ups to disorient and challenge the viewer, and is certainly not shy about using blood, guts, and real-life footage to stress the wanton, casual cruelty of nationally-sanctioned violence.

For me, the most notable thing about Come and See is its use of sound. Lynchian abstract soundscapes -- including lengthy muffled sections when Florya's hearing is damaged by an explosion -- fill the space and add to the viewer's discomfort. Klimov also punctuates silences with the ambient sounds of war and its casualties, imbuing even innocent sounds like a cow's lowing or the buzzing of flies with dreadful tension. It is a film calculated to render its audience, like its young protagonist, dazed and unmoored. Not for the weak of heart, mind, or stomach, Come and See is a gut-wrenching, difficult to watch, film experience.


  1. Sounds like this film was a big influence on Speilberg when filming saving private Ryan.

    Is this one on Netflix?

    I am a little surprised that a wwII film made in the USSR was anything but inspiring and nationalistic.

  2. @spurge

    It's not up for streaming on Netflix, but you can certainly get the disc -- that's what I did!

    It is a bit of a shock, though I guess by the 1980s, some of that nationalistic pride had been made unfashionable. Still, I understand that there was something of a struggle to get the film made.

    And yes, it was definitely an influence on Spielberg, even if this plays more like a Werner Herzog flick than one of our man Steven's!

  3. Full pics review here: