Monday 24 August 2020

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 67. Come and See

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces and fascinating curios that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Come and See
Director - Elem Klimov
Country - Soviet Union
Year 1985
Runtime - 142 minutes

Come and See is a landmark of Soviet Cinema, and can perhaps even be considered one of its greatest achievements. Director Elim Klimov has created an ugly and horrific depiction of war as seen through the eyes of an innocent young boy caught up in the Nazi invasion of Belarus during World War Two. This is a graphic and visceral film that doesn't shy away from encompassing the brutal atrocities and war crimes that were committed in the darkest days of the war, and warnings of its disturbing nature deserve to be heeded.

The nightmare begins with Florya Gaishun hunting through the remains of a deserted battlefield to find a rifle so the partisans will allow him to join their cause. Despite his mother's tearful efforts to prevent him from leaving, Florya is clearly excited about the prospect of joining his fellow countrymen in battle when he is stationed at a nearby encampment in the forest. His hopes are dashed when he is abandoned by his unit and left shaken after a procession of bombs falls from the sky. When the bombing ceases he finds he is alone in the ravaged war-torn countryside, and must fend for his life throughout a series of increasingly dangerous encounters with other survivors and hordes of pillaging Nazis. Here there are no heroics, and no opportunities for redemption or glory; this is war as a living hell - an incredibly unsettling journey through a country torn apart with reckless abandon.

Klimov stages his action with a dedication to realism that transports the viewer into the heart of the carnage. Stunningly choreographed long takes add weight to the impact of the relentless onslaught and demonstrate the breathtaking direction of a master cinematographer at work. The impeccable sound editing enhances the sense of hopelessness as ricocheting bullets whip through the undergrowth and violent explosions shake the earth, stunning anyone caught in the blast radius, and leaving them confused and disoriented as we experience first hand the unnatural ringing sensation that subsequently engulfs their hearing.

Florya's haunting transformation in Come and See is a devastating corruption of innocence, with his swift catharsis from childhood to adulthood unveiling before our very eyes. By the end of the film Florya has taken on the appearance of an old man - the impact of the war, and all he has experienced, leaving its indelible impression etched permanently onto his withered face. The astonishing performance by Alexei Kravchenko in this role showcases a dedication to the craft usually reserved for method actors who undergo dramatical physical transformations for a role. The torment and pain that Florya endures must surely have taken its toll on Kravchenko - watching Come and See is a life changing experience - and it is difficult to begin to imagine how draining it must have been to perform in such a demanding role.

Come and See is a gruelling and arduous experience for the viewer. There are few films that match the ferocity and intensity of its harrowing storyline, and those who label it as a horror certainly have a valid reason for doing so. Whilst parts of the film may be uncomfortable to sit through it is worth persevering as this is a vitally important piece of cinema with a powerful message told in an utterly captivating manner. Is this the greatest war film of all time? Without a doubt, yes.

If you take the time to watch Come and See then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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