FF72 - Come and See

Intro by Adam Pranica

Just up top here we want to say that this is a pretty hard one. It is hard for a lot of reasons and you probably know that we will touch on a lot of subjects like this on this podcast because of what it is about, but today's film is almost baroque in its depiction of Nazi war crimes and we are going to talk about them. So, maybe don't listen with the kids in the car.

It is 1977 and Belarusian director Elem Klimov began work on what eight years later would finally become today's shocking unflinching portrayal of a boy who lives through the Nazi invasion of Belarus and subsequent systematic extermination of the inhabitants of over 600 villages in that country by the occupying Germans. When we talk about films that do not mince the issue of the horrors of war, this one is right up there. The plot is pretty simple: Our main character is a young boy named Flyora who is too young to be a soldier. He is a pretty simple kid living a very rustic pre-industrial existence in a Soviet Republic that is basically steamrolled by the Nazis and what we see are a handful of moments in his life before the Nazis arrive, in which he exhibits a vague sense that he would like to participate in the attempt to repel them.

And then a harrowing series of days or weeks or months, that part is a little unclear, after the invasion we watched through Flyora's eyes, we see the horrors that the Nazis visit upon the people of Belarus and that is everything up to and including rape and mass murder. One of the defining images of the film is an entire town's population herded into a church that is then burned to the ground almost in real time as we hear the victims wailing inside. In the film Flyora has a counterpart in Glasha, a girl who is about his age and we don't spend the entire movie with her, but we are made to understand that what befalls her may be even worse than what Flyora goes through.

And while the camera almost never turns away from the horror, its interest in that horror is never prurient. It never feels like an action movie, the violence is never awesome. Klimov as a director is making a powerful, deeply considered statement about what the war meant to his people and elucidating an episode of the war in which the Nazis went out of their way to erase entire villages from existence. Their actions are shocking and their attitude about them is even more shocking. The German units are barely organized gangs of psychopaths who love doing what they are doing.

We were only able to find this movie in standard definition and it seems like the version that we watched might be an illegal YouTube upload, which is a shame because while it is very hard to watch this film should be watched because the horror exists in the context of a masterwork. This is a filmmaker in full control, telling a story that is very hard to tell. Aleksey Kravchenko, the young actor who plays Flyora undergoes as shocking a transformation in this film as any actor in the history of film. Every performance, despite coming from a cast of mostly amateurs, is flawless. Every camera move is justified. Every special effect is blisteringly real-feeling and the film culminates in a moment of pure art, the likes of which we have not previously experienced on this show.

Are you laughing? You won't be laughing for long! Today on Friendly Fire: Come and See.

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