Come and See
|Come and See|
American film poster
|Directed by||Elem Klimov|
|Written by||Ales Adamovich
|Music by||Oleg Yanchenko|
|Editing by||Valeriya Belova|
|Distributed by||Kino Video (DVD)
|Running time||146 minutes|
Come and See (Russian: Иди и смотри, Idi i smotri; Belarusian: Ідзі і глядзі, Idzi i hlyadzi) directed by Elem Klimov, is a 1985 Soviet war drama and psychological thriller film about and occurring during the Nazi German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR. Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova star as the protagonists Flyora and Glasha. The screenplay is by Ales Adamovich and Elem Klimov. The script had to wait eight years for approval; the film was finally produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II, and was a large box-office hit, with 28,900,000 admissions in the Soviet Union alone.
The film's title derives from Chapter 6 of The Apocalypse of John, in which "Come and see" is said in the first, third, fifth and seventh verses
In 1943, two Belarusian boys are digging in a sand field looking for abandoned rifles, in order to join the Soviet partisan forces. Yustin, an old man warns them not to dig (using sarcasm and reverse psychology). One of the boys, Flyora, finds an SVT-40 rifle. The next day, partisans arrive at his house and take Flyora with them, to the dismay of Flyora's mother. She fears that the loss of her son, like his father before him, will lessen her and her daughters' chances of survival.
The partisans converge in a forest and prepare to confront the Nazis. Flyora joins their forces as a low-rank militiaman and is ordered to do all the labor in the detachment. Finally, when the partisans are ready to move on, the partisan commander, Kosach, orders Flyora to remain behind at the camp in reserve and exchange boots with one of his fellows. Bitterly disappointed, Flyora walks into the forest, weeping and comes across someone else who has been left behind – Glafira (or Glasha), a beautiful girl infatuated with Kosach. The girl confuses Flyora with Kosach and mistakenly kisses him. Suddenly, German aeroplanes appear and begin to drop German parachutists, and the camp comes under heavy artillery fire.
Flyora goes temporarily deaf from the explosions and, after hiding out in the forest, returns to his home village with Glasha. He does not find his family at home, but his sisters' dolls are lined up on the floor and the house is overrun by flies. After sitting down to eat the still-warm dinner from the oven, Glasha vomits. Denying that his family was killed, Flyora believes that his family must be hiding on a nearby island across a bog. As they run from the village, Glasha turns and sees a huge pile of dead bodies stacked behind Flyora's house. Unable to accept that his family is dead, Flyora becomes hysterical as he and Glasha painstakingly wade through the bog. When they make it to the island, they meet a resistance fighter, Roubej. Glasha tells Roubej that Flyora is mad. Roubej takes the pair to a large number of other villagers who have fled the Nazis. Flyora sees Yustin doused in petrol and burnt by the Nazis, and accepts that his family did not survive.
Roubej takes Flyora and two others to find food. They run into SS activity and the food stored is too well-defended to be raided. Flyora unknowingly leads the group through a minefield in which two of the companions are killed. A German aeroplane drops empty liquor bottles. At dusk, Roubej and Flyora sneak up to an occupied town and manage to steal a cow from a Nazi-collaborating farmer, but as they flee across the fields, they are shot at. Both Roubej and the cow are killed. The next morning, Flyora, unable to move the dead cow, finds a horse and cart. He attempts to take the horse at the dismay of the owner who stops Flyora. They hear the sound of approaching German soldiers. The farmer helps Flyora hide his partisan jacket and rifle in the field, and takes him to his village of Perekhody, where they hurriedly discuss a fake identity for him.
A Nazi Einsatzkommando unit moves into the village and herds everyone into a wooden church, locking them all inside. The German Obersturmführer announces to the terrified people that anyone will be allowed to climb out of the church through a side window, as long as they leave their children behind. No one moves, but Flyora takes up their offer and climbs out. Shortly after, a woman attempts to climb out with her child, but she is dragged away by her hair and the toddler is thrown back through the window. Grenades are thrown into the church, which is then set on fire and shot at; Flyora watches the inferno of burning Byelorussian peasants while the Nazis stand and applaud, taking photographs and laughing, and listening to music. The woman who escaped the church is put into a moving truck with a group of soldiers and gang-raped.
Flyora wanders out of the village, where he sees that the partisan soldiers have ambushed the Germans as they fled from the burning village. He then goes to recover his rifle and jacket from the field where he had hid them earlier. As he turns to leave, Flyora comes across the woman who tried to escape from the church with her child who has been raped and is in a fugue state; he initially mistakes her for Glasha. Flyora returns to the destroyed village and finds that his fellow partisans have captured a small group of the attackers, along with their Byelorussian collaborators and the German SS commander. The main collaborator, insisting that they are not to blame for the slaughter, translates the words of the German commander, who claims to be a good man and a doting grandfather. The Obersturmführer is disgusted and angered by his commander's cowardice, and tells his captors that they, as an inferior race and communist sympathisers, will eventually be exterminated. The collaborator douses the prisoners with the can of petrol Flyora brought, but the crowd, disgusted by the sight, shoot them all down before they can be set on fire, ending their lives relatively painlessly.
As the partisans leave, Flyora notices a framed portrait of Adolf Hitler in a puddle and shoots it - the first time he has actually used his rifle. After each shot, there is a sequence of montages that play in reverse and regress in time, depicting the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich backwards from corpses at a concentration camp to images of Hitler as a schoolboy; and finally a picture of the infant Adolf in his mother's lap. Flyora shoots at each of the images – yet he cannot bring himself to fire at the still shot of baby Hitler. A title card states that "628 villages in Byelorussia were burnt to the ground with all their inhabitants."
In the film's final scene, Flyora catches up with and blends in with his partisan comrades marching through the woods, away into the dark of the trees.
Klimov co-wrote the screenplay with Ales Adamovich, who fought with the Belarussian partisans as a teenager. According to the director's recollections, work on the film began in 1977:
|“||The 40th anniversary of the Great Victory was approaching. The management had to be given something topical. I had been reading and rereading the book I Am from the Burning Village, which consisted of the first-hand accounts of people who miraculously survived the horrors of the fascist genocide in Belorussia. Many of them were still alive then, and Belorussians managed to record some of their memories onto film. I will never forget the face and eyes of one peasant, and his quiet recollection about how his whole village had been herded into a church, and how just before they were about to be burned, an officer of the Sonderkommando gave them the offer: "Whoever has no children can leave". And he couldn't take it, he left, and left behind his wife and little kids... or about how another village was burned: the adults were all herded into a barn, but the children were left behind. And later, the drunk men surrounded them with sheepdogs and let the dogs tear the children to pieces.
And then I thought: the world doesn't know about Khatyn! They know about Katyn, about the massacre of the Polish officers there. But they don't know about Belorussia. Even though more than 600 villages were burned there!
And I decided to make a film about this tragedy. I perfectly understood that the film would end up a harsh one. I decided that the central role of the village lad Flyora would not be played by a professional actor, who upon immersion into a difficult role could have protected himself psychologically with his accumulated acting experience, technique and skill. I wanted to find a simple boy fourteen years of age. We had to prepare him for the most difficult experiences, then capture them on film. And at the same time, we had to protect him from the stresses so that he wasn't left in the loony bin after filming was over, but was returned to his mother alive and healthy. Fortunately, with Lyosha Kravchenko, who played Flyora and who later became a good actor, everything went smoothly.
I understood that this would be a very brutal film and that it was unlikely that people would be able to watch it. I told this to my screenplay coauthor, the writer Ales Adamovich. But he replied: "Let them not watch it, then. This is something we must leave after us. As evidence of war, and as a plea for peace."
—Elem Klimov, AIF.
For a long time, filming could not begin. Goskino would not accept the screenplay, considering it a propaganda for the "aesthetics of dirtiness" and "naturalism". In the end, Klimov was able to start filming in 1984 without having compromised to any censorship at all. The only change became the name of the film itself, which was changed to Come and See from the original title, Kill Hitler (Elem Klimov also says this in the 2006 UK DVD release).
The film was shot in chronological order over a period of nine months. Aleksey Kravchenko says that he underwent "the most debilitating fatigue and hunger. I kept a most severe diet, and after the filming was over I returned to school not only thin, but grey-haired." The 2006 UK DVD sleeve states that the guns in the film were often loaded with live ammunition as opposed to blanks, for realism. Aleksey Kravchenko mentions in interviews that bullets sometimes passed just 4 inches (10 centimeters) above his head (such as in the cow scene).
- Much of the footage was shot with Steadicam.
- The prosimian that is seen as the pet of the German SS Major (Sturmbannführer) is called the Red Slender Loris.
- The detachment of Einsatzgruppe that raids Perekhody is called the 15th Einsatzkommando, a historically existing unit.
- There is a town called Perekhody currently in Smolensk Oblast in Russia.
The original soundtrack is rhythmically amorphous music composed by Oleg Yanchenko. At a few key points in the film existing music is used, sometimes mixed in with Yanchenko's music (such as Johann Strauss Jr.'s Blue Danube). At the end, during the montage, music by Richard Wagner is used, most notably the Tannhäuser Overture and the Ride from Die Walküre. The conclusion of the film uses the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem. The Soviet marching song "The Sacred War" is also played in the movie once. During the scene where Glasha dances, the background music is taken from Grigori Aleksandrov's 1936 film Circus.
Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film 95% "Certified Fresh" with an average rating of 8.1/10.
According to Klimov, the film was so shocking for audiences that ambulances were sometimes called in to take away particularly impressionable viewers, both in the Soviet Union and abroad. During one of the after-the-film discussions, an elderly German stood up and said: "I was a soldier of the Wehrmacht; moreover, an officer of the Wehrmacht. I traveled through all of Poland and Belarus, finally reaching Ukraine. I will testify: everything that is told in this film is the truth. And the most frightening and shameful thing for me is that this film will be seen by my children and grandchildren."
On June 16, 2010, Roger Ebert posted a review of Come and See as part of his "Great Movies" series, describing it as "one of the most devastating films ever about anything, and in it, the survivors must envy the dead... The film depicts brutality and is occasionally very realistic, but there's an overlay of muted nightmarish exaggeration... I must not describe the famous sequence at the end. It must unfold as a surprise for you. It pretends to roll back history. You will see how. It is unutterably depressing, because history can never undo itself, and is with us forever."
Walter Goodman, writing for The New York Times, dismissed the ending as "a dose of instant inspirationalism," but concedes to Klimov's "unquestionable talent." Rita Kempley, of the Washington Post, wrote that "directing with an angry eloquence, [Klimov] taps into that hallucinatory nether world of blood and mud and escalating madness that Francis Ford Coppola found in Apocalypse Now. And though he draws a surprisingly vivid performance from his inexperienced teen lead, Klimov's prowess is his visual poetry, muscular and animistic, like compatriot Andrei Konchalovsky's in his epic Siberiade." Mark Le Fanu wrote in Sight and Sound (03/01/1987) that Come and See is a "powerful war film... The director has elicited an excellent performance form his central actor Kravchenko." Writing about Come and See, Walter Goodman of the New York Times (02/06/1987) claimed that "The history is harrowing and the presentation is graphic... Powerful material, powerfully rendered..." Daneet Steffens of Entertainment Weekly (11/02/2001) wrote that "Klimov alternates the horrors of war with occasional fairy tale-like images; together they imbue the film with an unapologetically disturbing quality that persists long after the credits roll." Geoffrey Macnab of Sight and Sound (05/01/2006) wrote that "Klimov's astonishing war movie combines intense lyricism with the kind of violent bloodletting that would make even Sam Peckinpah pause."
In 2001, J. Hoberman of the Village Voice reviewed Come and See, writing the following: "Directed for baroque intensity, Come and See is a robust art film with aspirations to the visionary – not so much graphic as leisurely literal-minded in its representation of mass murder. (The movie has been compared both to Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, and it would not be surprising to learn that Steven Spielberg had screened it before making either of these.) The film's central atrocity is a barbaric circus of blaring music and barking dogs in which a squadron of drunken German soldiers round up and parade the peasants to their fiery doom... The bit of actual death-camp corpse footage that Klimov uses is doubly disturbing in that it retrospectively diminishes the care with which he orchestrates the town's destruction. For the most part, he prefers to show the Gorgon as reflected in Perseus's shield. There are few images more indelible than the sight of young Alexei Kravchenko's fear-petrified expression. By some accounts the boy was hypnotized for the movie's final scenes – most viewers will be as well.
In 2002, Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club wrote that Klimov's "impressions are unforgettable: the screaming cacophony of a bombing run broken up by the faint sound of a Mozart fugue, a dark, arid field suddenly lit up by eerily beautiful orange flares, German troops appearing like ghosts out of the heavy morning fog. A product of the glasnost era, Come and See is far from a patriotic memorial of Russia's hard-won victory. Instead, it's a chilling reminder of that victory's terrible costs."
British magazine The Word wrote that "Come and See is widely regarded as the finest war film ever made, though possibly not by Great Escape fans." Tim Lott wrote in 2009 that the film "makes Apocalypse Now look lightweight".
The film was placed at #60 on Empire magazines "The 500 Greatest Movies of all Time" in 2008. Come and See was also included in Channel 4's list of 50 Films to See Before You Die and was ranked #24 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. Phil de Semlyen of Empire has described Come and See as "Elim Klimov’s seriously influential, deeply unsettling Belarussian opus. No film – not Apocalypse Now, not Full Metal Jacket – spells out the dehumanising impact of conflict more vividly, or ferociously... An impressionist masterpiece and possibly the worst date movie ever."
Elem Klimov did not make any more films after Come and See, leading some critics to speculate as to why. In 2001, Klimov said, "I lost interest in making films ... Everything that was possible I felt I had already done." Klimov died on 26 October 2003.
- "Come And See Movie Overview (1985)". Channel 4.
- The same biblical quote is at the center of the film Horsemen (2009).
- «Иди и смотри»: съёмки превратились для Элема Климова в борьбу с цензурой
- Алексей КРАВЧЕНКО: «Со съёмок фильма Климова „Иди и смотри“ я вернулся не только страшно худой, но и седой»
- "14th Moscow International Film Festival (1985)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
- "Elem Klimov Interview, 16:40 in video". Retrieved 2012-06-29.
- Roger Ebert's review of Come and See, June 16, 2010.
- To tell the truth, this scene is an example of the cosmological model of the Big Crunch, which seems to be the most scientifically corresponding to what is said still in the Apocalypse: "And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places" (Revelation || Isaiah : "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree."
- J. Hoberman's review of Come and See, January 30, 2001.
- J. Elliot Stein's review of Come and See, August 18, 2009.
- Scott Tobias' review of Come and See, April 19, 2002.
- The Word, July 2006, Issue 41, p. 122.
- The Guardian, 24 July 2009, The worst best films ever made
- "Film4's 50 Films To See Before You Die". Channel 4. 2006-07-22.
- "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema". Empire.
- Become A War Films Expert In Ten Easy Movies.
- N. Ramsey, "Filmmakers Who Prized Social, Not Socialist, Reality" New York Times January 28, 2001
- Goodman, Walter. “Film: ‘Come and See’”. The New York Times 6 Feb. 1987."
- Come and See at the Internet Movie Database
- Come and See at AllRovi
- Come and See at Rotten Tomatoes
- Interview with Klimov, YouTube (3/3)