Come and See (Russia, 1985, Elim Klimov)
I did take your advice. Jacob and I watched Come and See Saturday night while Max was at a slumber party. I believe he could have handled it. I say this not to be a dickwad about you recommending that he not view the film. My purpose is to indicate that I did not find the film THAT powerful.
This possibility entertained, something about the overwhelming quality of the film was for me in the end affectively disfunctional. It is technically excessive. Perhaps the easiest way to convey my sense about it is to mention that I initially flashed on Tarkovsky's Mirror but this gave way to Tarr's Satantango. It's all just a bit too much. In particular, the soundtrack, a deeply disturbing multi-layered texture in its own right, over-powered the film's mise-en-scene. Indeed, my problem with the film may boil down to this, although the hyper-realism of the cinematography and the deep-mask acting are also candidates. I understand that the world becomes for the protagonist an almost surreal experience as he is taken to the very edge of his sanity by terror and we are submerged vicariously by the film into this mental maelstrom. Much of this interiority of the character is depicted by what we hear in the film juxtaposed against the barbaric carnival of the visual images that display the external world gone mad. The weight of all this is crushing to the point that eventually I started to experience the technique directly. That he literally ages right before our eyes and that his face takes on frozen registrations of the horror, this is already seriously strong theatre and the audio underneath it takes it to another level that finally felt like another level too much. Or was this intellectual flight on my part when confronted by emotionally unbearable art? Again, I entertain the possibility.
Based on the Nazi occupation of Beloruss in WWII, Come and See is one of the harshest movie experiences of my young (heh) life. That said, there was a point in the film's second half where I felt like I had been bludgeoned so thoroughly that there was nothing the film could do to me anymore. I don't think that this sort of desensitization quite works to the film's benefit, benumbed as I became to the horrors that surrounded the protagonist as the film reached its climax.
Despite these complaints, there is no doubt that Come and See is a real horror show, a film that takes us from youthful exuberance, as the teenaged Florya excitedly searches for guns so he can join in the fight, through disappointment, disillusionment, despair and, ultimately, disintegration. It is a helluva journey, told with with brutal bluntness and numbing, unflinching realism.
experiences with the Soviet partisans are weirdly reminscent of passages in Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood, particularly when Florya is left behind as a reserve and wanders the forest weeping his misfortune, and later as he and the villagers struggle through the bog in their flight from the Nazi invasion. The lyricism of these sequences are psychologically valid, and encourage us to identify even more closely with Florya's character. This, of course, makes us feel his terrible fall from near-grace all the more profoundly.
Once the German's make their inevitable appearance on the scene, the film makes an abrupt left turn at Albuquerque. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto. The Nazi's aerial assault is accompanied by a devastating bombardment that causes Florya to go temporarily deaf, while subsequent images of the brutalized citizenry make him (and us) wish he was blind as well, which further invites us to consider the terrible irony of the film's title. Do we really want to bear witness to this?
Well, we are given little choice in the matter, as Florya's descent into Hell continues apace. The viciousness and relentlessness of the Nazi's invasion makes the cause of Florya and the partisan's feel inevitably hopeless, which does soften the blow a bit, as we find ourselves out of emotional necessity stepping back from our intimate connection to Florya. While there appears to be no way out for him, this is not true of the audience, and the bludgeoning we take at the hands of the filmmakers may be historically accurate, and, given the level of horror brought to this world by the Nazi's, completely necessary, that does not mean an audience will necessarily go along for the ride when the destination is so clearly without hope or redemption.