Dec 17, 2008

21st Dec 2008; Screening of Come and See

A film by Elem Klimov
Country : Russia
Year : 1985
Run time : 142 min
Russian with English sub titles
21st Dec 2008 ; 5.45 pm
Ashwin hospital auditorium 
Call: 94430 39630

Russian film maker Elem Klimov explores the horrors of war in his classic coming-of-age drama "Come and See." Directing with an angry eloquence, he taps into that  hallucinatory nether world of blood and mud and escalating madness . 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."

"Come and See," an impassioned, pastoral indictment of the Nazis, haunts us with its painterly after-images of World War II as seen through a 14-year-old farm boy's eyes. Alexei Kravchenko, who has never acted before, plays Florya, the innocent destroyed. He suffers with an agony torn from his Russian core. He was, in fact, hypnotized during filming to aid him in his physical transformation from an apple-cheeked waif to a  wizened, hollow-eyed witness of genocide.

It begins when Florya steals a gun from a soldier's shallow grave and runs off to join the Resistance fighters in rural Byelorussia in their stand against the ruthless storm troopers.. Florya  escapes physical harm, but his soul is destroyed.

Florya’s face is the most dominant image in the film, and much of Klimov’s style relies on uncomfortable close-ups that not only are a bit too close, but are also at either eye-level or below and looking up: positions unnatural, submissive for an adult viewer. We're not used to looking a child straight-on, let alone looking up at one. The overall result is surreal, gruesome, horrific, off-putting, often brilliant -  the film is always powerful and memorable because of it.

Images float across the screen like unmoored hallucinations -- during the village massacre, a reeling Kravchenko catches sight of an androgynous Nazi sucking the meat from a crustacean's claw in the front seat of a truck -- and characters frequently stare right into the lens, as if confronting our right to be witnessing any of this. It's more than a little hysterical, but Klimov's intensity gets under your skin, and the effect is, finally, searing.

"Come and See" sounds like an invitation to a child's game. Nothing could  be further from the truth.

Elem Klimov

9 July 1933 – 26 October 2003

Elem Germanovich  , born in Stalingrad, current Volgograd, was a Soviet Russian film director. He studied at VGIK, and was married to film director Larisa Shepitko.

Western audiences know Klimov-the-director chiefly from his later films, especially Agoniia (Rasputin, 1975, released 1984) and Idi i smotri (Come and See, 1985). Both are historical films, the first a sensationalist but serious portrait of the improbably sensationalist "advisor" to Nicholas II, Grigory Rasputin, the second a harrowing account of Nazi brutality in Belarus in 1943.

But Klimov launched his career with comedy. Klimov studied at VGIK, the premier Soviet film school, in the turbulent, exciting late 1950s and early 1960s, along with a raft of talented young men—Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrei Konchalovsky, Vasily Shukshin—and at least one talented young woman, Larisa Shepitko, whom he married. After graduating in 1964, Klimov made his debut with Dobro pozhlovat', ili postoronnim vkhod vospreshchen (Welcome or No Trespassing, 1964).

In 1979, Klimov's wife Larisa died in a car crash while at work directing a film based on a famous Russian novel by Valentin Rasputin calledFarewell to Matyora. His wife's death had a profound impact on Klimov - all his films after this were tragedies. He finished the film that his wife had been working on and also directed a 25-minute tribute to her called Larisa.

In 1986, fresh from the success of his film Come and See, and with the changes brought by perestroika in the air, Klimov was chosen by his colleagues to be First Secretary of the new, revamped Film-maker's Union. His reign saw the belated release of hundreds of previously banned films and the reinstatement of several directors who had fallen out of political favour. However, Klimov was frustrated by the obstacles that still remained in his way. He gave up his post in 1988 to Andrei Smirnov, saying that he wanted to make films again. Plans for an adaptation of The Master and Margarita and a film about Joseph Stalin never materialized, however, and eventually Klimov lost interest in making films, saying that there was no topic left to filmHe died on October 26, 2003.

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