German poster - (left to right) Rybak, the village headman, Sotnikov, Basya, Demchikha
|Directed by||Larisa Shepitko|
|Written by||Vasil Bykaw (novel Sotnikov)
|Music by||Alfred Schnittke|
The Ascent (Russian: Восхождение, tr. Voskhozhdeniye) is a 1977 black-and-white Soviet drama film directed by Larisa Shepitko and made at Mosfilm. The movie was shot in January 1974 near Murom, Vladimir Oblast, Russia, in appalling winter conditions, as required by the script, based on the novel Sotnikov by Vasil Bykaw. It was Shepitko's last film before her death in a car accident in 1979. The film won the Golden Bear award at the 27th Berlin International Film Festival in 1977. It was also selected as the Soviet entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 50th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
During the Great Patriotic War (World War II), two Soviet partisans go to a Belarusian village in search of food. After taking a farm animal from the collaborationist headman (Sergei Yakovlev), they head back to their unit, but are spotted by a German patrol. After a protracted gunfight in the snow in which one of the Germans is killed, the two men get away, but Sotnikov (Boris Plotnikov) is shot in the leg. Rybak (Vladimir Gostyukhin) has to take him to the nearest shelter, the home of Demchikha (Lyudmila Polyakova), the mother of three young children. However, they are discovered and captured.
The two men and a sobbing Demchikha are taken to the German headquarters. Sotnikov is interrogated first by detective Portnov (Anatoli Solonitsyn), a former Soviet club-house director and children's choirmaster who became the local head of the Belarusian Auxiliary Police, loyal to the Germans. When Sotnikov refuses to answer Portnov's questions, he is brutally tortured by members of the collaborationist police, but gives up no information. However, Rybak is a different story. He tells as much as he thinks the police already know, hoping to live so he can escape later. The headman, now suspected of supporting the partisans, and Basya Meyer, the teen daughter of a Jewish shoemaker, are imprisoned in the same cellar for the night.
The next morning, all are led out to be hanged. Rybak persuades Portnov and the Germans to let him join the police. Sotnikov and the others are executed.
As he heads back to the camp with his new comrades, Rybak is vilified by the villagers. Finally realizing what he has done, he tries to hang himself with his belt in the outhouse, but the belt becomes unfastened. He ties it more securely, but cannot poke his head through the smaller hole. A fellow policeman calls for him continuously until Rybak opens the door. The policeman tells Rybak their commander wants him, then leaves Rybak alone in the courtyard. Rybak spies the camp's open door, and the village and empty fields beyond, but breaks down in tears and laughter as he realizes he dares not try to escape.
- Boris Plotnikov as Sotnikov
- Vladimir Gostyukhin as Rybak
- Sergei Yakovlev as Village elder
- Lyudmila Polyakova as Demchikha
- Viktoriya Goldentul as Basya Meyer
- Anatoli Solonitsyn as Portnov, the collaborationist interrogator
- Mariya Vinogradova as Village elder's wife
- Nikolai Sektimenko as Stas'
- List of recent films in black and white
- List of submissions to the 50th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Soviet submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- The Ascent at the Internet Movie Database
- The Ascent at AllMovie
- The Ascent at the official Mosfilm site with English subtitles