Come and See
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|Come and See|
Russian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Elem Klimov|
I Am from the Fiery Village
|Music by||Oleg Yanchenko|
|Edited by||Valeriya Belova|
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, with a screenplay written by Klimov and Ales Adamovich based on the 1978 book I Am from the Fiery Village (original title: Я из огненной деревни, Ya iz ognennoj Derevn, 1977) by Adamovich et al.. The film stars Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova.
The film focuses upon the Nazi German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR, and primarily upon the events witnessed by a young Belarusian partisan teenager named Flyora, who—against his parents' wishes—joins the Belarusian resistance movement, and thereafter depicts the Nazi atrocities and human suffering inflicted upon the populace.
Come and See had to wait eight years for approval from Soviet authorities before 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.
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) as an invitation to look upon the destruction caused by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 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 Byelorussian boys dig in a sand field looking for abandoned rifles in order to join the Soviet partisan forces. Their village elder warns them not to dig up the weapons as it will arouse the suspicions of the Germans. One of the boys, Flyora, finds an SVT-40 rifle, and the next day partisans arrive at Flyora's house to 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 a young girl named Glasha, and the two bond before the camp is suddenly attacked by German paratroopers and dive bombers. Flyora is partially deafened from explosions before the two hide in the forest to avoid the German soldiers. Flyora and Glasha travel to his village, only to find his home 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 in the direction of the bogland, Glasha glances across her shoulder, seeing a pile of executed villagers' bodies stacked behind a house, but does not alert Flyora. The two become hysterical after wading through the bog, where Glasha then screams at Flyora that his family are actually dead in the village. They are soon met by Roubej, a partisan fighter, who takes them to a large group of villagers who have fled the Germans. Flyora sees the village elder, badly burnt by the Germans, who tells him that he witnessed his family's execution and that he should not have dug up the rifles. Flyora accepts that his family is dead and blames himself for the tragedy.
Roubej takes Flyora and two other men to find food at a nearby warehouse, only to find it being guarded by German troops, and during their retreat the group unknowingly wanders through a minefield resulting in the deaths of the two companions. That evening Roubej and Flyora sneak up to an occupied village and manage to steal a cow from a collaborating farmer, however Roubej and the cow are shot and killed by a German machine gun. The next morning, Flyora attempts to steal a horse and cart but the owner catches him and instead of doing him harm, he helps hide Flyora's identity when SS troops approach. Flyora is taken to the village of Perekhody, where they hurriedly discuss a fake identity for him, while the SS unit (based on the Dirlewanger Brigade) accompanied by Ukrainian collaborators surround and occupy the village. Flyora tries to warn the townsfolk they are being herded to their deaths, but is forced to join them inside a church. Flyora and a young woman bearing a strong resemblance to Glasha manage to escape; the young woman is dragged by her hair across the ground and into a truck to be gang raped, while Flyora is forced to watch as grenades are thrown into the church before it is set ablaze and shot. A German officer points a gun to Flyora's head to pose for a picture before leaving him to slump to the ground as the soldiers leave.
Flyora later wanders out of the scorched village in the direction of the Germans, where he discovers they had been ambushed by the partisans. After recovering his jacket and rifle, Flyora comes across the young woman who had also escaped the church in a fugue state after having been gang raped and beaten. Flyora returns to the village and finds that his fellow partisans have captured eleven of the Germans and their collaborators, including the commander. While some of the captured men plead for their lives and deflect blame, a young fanatical officer bluntly tells the captors that their people have no right to exist and they will carry out their mission. Kosach then forces most of the collaborators to douse the Germans with a can of petrol but the disgusted crowd shoots them all before they can be set on fire. As the partisans leave, Flyora notices a framed portrait of Adolf Hitler in a puddle and proceeds to shoot it numerous times. As he does so, a montage of clips from Hitler's life play in reverse, but when Hitler is shown as a baby in his mother's arms, Flyora stops shooting and cries.
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. As they disappear into the birch forest, a title informs: "628 Belorussian villages were destroyed, along with all their inhabitants."
- 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:
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 Fiery 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 Aleksey 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
For a long time, filming could not begin because the State Committee for Cinematography (Goskino) would not accept the screenplay, considering it propaganda for the "aesthetics of dirtiness" and "naturalism". Eventually in 1984, Klimov was able to start filming 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 said 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 stated that the guns in the film were often loaded with live ammunition as opposed to blanks, for realism. Aleksey Kravchenko mentioned in interviews that bullets sometimes passed just 4 inches (10 centimeters) above his head (such as in the cow scene).
The original soundtrack is rhythmically amorphous music composed by Oleg Yanchenko. At a few key points in the film classical music is used, sometimes mixed in with Yanchenko's music (such as Johann Strauss Jr.'s Blue Danube). The Soviet marching song "The Sacred War" is played in the movie once. During the scene where Glasha dances, the background music is taken from Grigori Aleksandrov's 1936 film Circus. At the end, during the montage, music by Richard Wagner is used, most notably the Tannhäuser Overture and the Ride from Die Walküre. At the conclusion of the film the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem is played.
Initial reception was positive. Walter Goodman wrote for The New York Times that "The history is harrowing and the presentation is graphic...Powerful material, powerfully rendered...", and dismissed the ending as "a dose of instant inspirationalism," but conceded 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 & Sound 03/01/1987 that Come and See is a "powerful war film...The director has elicited an excellent performance from 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.
The film has since been widely acclaimed in the 21st century. In 2001 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."
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 the same publication in 2009, Elliott Stein described Come and See as "a startling mixture of lyrical poeticism and expressionist nightmare."
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". 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."
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."
Come and See appears on many lists of films considered the best. In 2008, Come and See was placed at number 60 on Empire magazine's "The 500 Greatest Movies of all Time" in 2008. It also made Channel 4's list of 50 Films to See Before You Die and was ranked number 24 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. 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." It ranked 154th among critics, and 30th among directors, in the 2012 Sight & Sound polls of the greatest films ever made.
Klimov did not make any more films after Come and See until his death on 26 October 2003, 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."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|14th Moscow International Film Festival||12 July 1985||Golden Prize||Elem Klimov||Won|
|FIPRESCI prize||Elem Klimov||Won|
- List of submissions to the 58th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Soviet submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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The stories of survivors from the burned villages were collected in the 1970s by three Byelorussian writers, Ales' Adamovich, Janka Bryl', and Vladimir Kolesnik and published as a book in Russian and Byelorussian under the title Ya iz ognennoj Derevni ... [I am from the fiery village]. See Adamovich et al., Ya iz ognennoj Derevni ... (Minsk, 1977) (p. 321).
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- "Elem Klimov about Come and see" (interview with English subtitles). Retrieved 30 May 2013.
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- Ebert, Roger (16 June 2010). "Come and See". RogerEbert.com. 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).
- "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. November 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
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