Come and See

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Come and See
Come and See (poster).jpg
Russian theatrical release poster
Directed by Elem Klimov
Screenplay by
Story by Ales Adamovich
Music by Oleg Yanchenko
Cinematography Aleksei Rodionov
Edited by Valeriya Belova
Distributed by Sovexportfilm
Release date
  • July 1985 (1985-07) (Moscow)
Running time
142 minutes[1]
Country Soviet Union
  • Belarusian
  • Russian
  • German

Come and See (Russian: Иди и смотри, Idi i smotri; Belarusian: Ідзі і глядзі, Idzi i hlyadzi) is a 1985 Soviet war drama film directed by Elem Klimov about, and occurring during, the Nazi German occupation of the Belorussian SSR. Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova star as the protagonists Flyora and Glasha.[2] The screenplay by Klimov and Ales Adamovich 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 was selected as the Soviet entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 58th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[3]


The film's title derives from Chapter 6 of The Apocalypse of John, where in the first, third, fifth, and seventh verses is written "Come and see" (Greek: Ἐρχου καὶ ἴδε, Erchou kai ide)[4] as an invitation to look upon the destruction caused by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.[5][6] Chapter 6, verses 7–8 have been cited as being particularly relevant to the film:

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see! And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.


In 1943, two Belorussian boys dig in a sand field looking for abandoned rifles in order to join the Soviet partisan forces. One of the boys, Flyora, finds an SVT-40 rifle. The next day, partisans arrive at Flyora's house and conscript him. Flyora becomes a low-rank militiaman and is ordered to perform menial tasks. When the partisans are ready to move on, their commander, Kosach, orders Flyora to remain behind at the camp. Bitterly disappointed, Flyora walks into the forest weeping and meets Glafira (or Glasha), a beautiful girl infatuated with Kosach. Glasha becomes delusional and, thinking he is Kosach, kisses Flyora. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by German parachutists and dive bombers, and Flyora goes deaf from the explosions.

After hiding in the forest, Flyora and Glasha return to his house to find it deserted and covered in flies. Denying that his family is dead, Flyora believes that they are hiding on a nearby island across a bog. As they run from the village, Glasha sees a pile of bodies stacked behind the house, but doesn't tell him of it. Unable to accept the truth, Flyora becomes hysterical as he and Glasha wade through the bog. At the island, they meet a resistance fighter, Roubej, who takes the pair to a large group of villagers who have fled the Germans. Flyora sees Yustin, an elderly villager who had been doused in petrol and burnt by the Germans, and accepts that his family is dead and blames himself for the tragedy.

Roubej takes Flyora and two others to find food, leaving Glasha to care for the villagers. They find that the food is being guarded by SS troops and is too well-defended to be raided. Flyora unknowingly leads the group through a minefield, resulting in the deaths of the two companions. At dusk, Roubej and Flyora sneak up to an occupied town and manage to steal a cow from a German-collaborating farmer, but Roubej and the cow are shot and killed as they flee. The next morning, Flyora, unable to move the dead cow, unsuccessfully tries to steal a horse and cart. The owner helps Flyora hide his partisan jacket and rifle when the SS troops approach, and takes him to his village of Perekhody, where they hurriedly discuss a fake identity for him.

A German unit, based off the infamous Dirlewanger Brigade of the Waffen-SS along with Belorussian collaborators, surrounds the village. While Flyora is introduced to much of the farmer's family, a German officer comes inside of the house and is given food and drink. Flyora attempts to warn the townsfolk as they are herded by the German troops, but is caught by a collaborator and eventually forced to join them inside a church. When Flyora manages to leave the church, he is brought before the German unit's commander and is forced to watch as German soldiers set the church ablaze with the villagers inside. They play music and amuse themselves as the atrocity unfolds. Afterwards, a German officer points a gun to Flyora's head to pose for a picture before leaving him to die.

Flyora wanders out of the scorched village, where he sees that the partisans ambushed the Germans as they left. After recovering his jacket and rifle, Flyora comes across a woman with a strong resemblance to Glasha who is in a fugue state after having been raped. Flyora returns to the village and finds that his fellow partisans have captured eleven of the Germans and their collaborators, including the commander. Kosach forces most of the collaborators to douse the Germans with a can of petrol. However, the disgusted crowd shoots them all 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 used his rifle.

In the film's final scene, Flyora catches up and blends in with his partisan comrades marching through the woods as snow blankets the ground.


  • Aleksey Kravchenko as Flyora
  • Olga Mironova as Glasha/Glafira
  • Liubomiras Laucevičius as Kosach
    • Valeriy Kravchenko as Kosach's dubbing
  • Vladas Bagdonas as Roubej
  • Jüri Lumiste as young German officer
  • Evgeniy Tilicheev as Collaborator
  • Viktor Lorents as the German commander


Klimov co-wrote the screenplay with Ales Adamovich, who fought with the Belarusian partisans as a teenager. According to the director's recollections, work on the film began in 1977:

For a long time, filming could not begin. The State Committee for Cinematography (Goskino) would not accept the screenplay, considering it a propaganda for the "aesthetics of dirtiness" and "naturalism".[7] 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).[8]

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."[9] 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).


The film was released in 1986, drawing 29 million viewers and ranking sixth at the box office of 1986.[10]


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.


Initial reception was positive. Walter Goodman, writing for The New York Times, claimed that "The history is harrowing and the presentation is graphic... Powerful material, powerfully rendered...", dismissed the ending as "a dose of instant inspirationalism," but concedes to Klimov's "unquestionable talent."[11] 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."[12] Mark Le Fanu wrote in Sight & 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." According to Klimov, the film was so shocking for audiences, however, that ambulances were sometimes called in to take away particularly impressionable viewers, both in the Soviet Union and abroad.[8] 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."[7]

Come and See has since been widely acclaimed, and appears on many lists of films considered the best. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 95% approval critic response based on 21 reviews, with an average score of 8.1/10.[13] Daneet Steffens of Entertainment Weekly 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."[14] In 2006, Geoffrey Macnab of Sight & Sound opined, "Klimov's astonishing war movie combines intense lyricism with the kind of violent bloodletting that would make even Sam Peckinpah pause."[citation needed]

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.[clarification needed]) 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."[15] In the same publication in 2009, Elliott Stein described Come and See as "a startling mixture of lyrical poeticism and expressionist nightmare."[16]

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."[17] 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."[18] Tim Lott wrote in 2009 that the film "makes Apocalypse Now look lightweight".[19] On 16 June 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."[20]

Come and See was placed at number 60 on Empire magazine's "The 500 Greatest Movies of all Time" in 2008.[21] It also made Channel 4's list of 50 Films to See Before You Die[22] and was ranked number 24 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.[23] Phil de Semlyen of Empire has described the work as "Elim Klimov’s seriously influential, deeply unsettling Belarusian 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."[24] It ranked 154th among critics, and 30th among directors, in the 2012 Sight & Sound polls of the greatest films ever made.[25]

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."[26] Klimov died on 26 October 2003.[27]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
14th Moscow International Film Festival[28] 12 July 1985 Golden Prize Elem Klimov Won
FIPRESCI prize Elem Klimov Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Come and See (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 1986-12-16. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "Come And See Movie Overview (1985)". Channel 4. 
  3. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  4. ^ Garland, Anthony Charles (2007). A Testimony of Jesus Christ - Volume 1. A Commentary on the Book of Revelation. p. 325. ISBN 978-0-978-88641-7. ISBN 0-97888641-0. 
  5. ^ Wise, Damon (28 October 2013). "Top 10 war movies. 5. Come and See". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 July 2016. 
  6. ^ The same biblical quote is at the center of the film Horsemen (2009).
  7. ^ a b c Марина Мурзина [Marina Murzina] (20 October 2010). "Иди и смотри: съёмки превратились для Элема Климова в борьбу с цензурой [Come and See: shooting turned to Elem Klimov in the fight against censorship]". Аргументы и факты [Arguments and Facts] (42). Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Elem Klimov about Come and see" (interview with English subtitles). Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  9. ^ Алексей КРАВЧЕНКО: «Со съёмок фильма Климова „Иди и смотри" я вернулся не только страшно худой, но и седой»
  10. ^ Youngblood 2007, p. 197.
  11. ^ Goodman, Walter (6 February 1987). "FILM: 'COME AND SEE,' FROM SOVIET". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Kempley, Rita (25 September 1987). "Come and See review". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  13. ^ "Come and See (Idi i smotri) (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Steffens, Daneet (November 2, 2001). "Come and See". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 20, 2017. 
  15. ^ Hoberman, J. (30 January 2001). "High Lonesome". The Village Voice. New York City. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Stein, Elliott (18 August 2009). "Come and See". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Tobias, Scott (19 April 2002). "Come And See". The A.V. Club. Chicago: Onion, Inc. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  18. ^ The Word (41). London. July 2006. p. 122.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Lott, Tim (24 July 2009). "The worst best films ever made". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (16 June 2010). "Come and See". Retrieved 25 February 2014.  Yet in the biblical context chosen by Klimov for his movie, always in Chapter 6 of the Apocalypse, verse 14 states: "the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up" (6:14 || Isaiah 34:4).
  21. ^ "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. November 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Film4's 50 Films To See Before You Die". Channel 4. 22 July 2006. 
  23. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema". Empire. 2010. 
  24. ^ Become A War Films Expert In Ten Easy Movies.
  25. ^ "Votes for IDI I SMOTRI (1985)". British Film Institute. Retrieved January 20, 2017. 
  26. ^ Ramsey, Nancy (28 January 2001). "FILM; They Prized Social, Not Socialist, Reality". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Bergan, Ronald (4 November 2003). "Obituary: Elem Klimov". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 June 2009. 
  28. ^ "14th Moscow International Film Festival (1985)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 

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