Review Rewind: ‘Come and See’

The Movie: Come and See 

The Year: 1985

The People: Aleksey Kravchenko as Flyora, the decaying childbearing witness to the evilest of evils, Elem Klimov as the film’s director and Ales Adamovich as the screenwriter, relaying the horrors he lived through in his youth.

The Non-Revealing Plot: In 1943, an adolescent boy passionately joins the local resistance force in his homeland of Byelorussia (now Belarus) to fight off the occupying Nazis.   

Unofficial Genre: Simply put, the film is a war film. Although there are small wisps of youthful romance in the film’s atmosphere, they show up only at the beginning of the film, before a row of Nazi bombs blanket the entire remainder of the film in despair, degradation and death. Though “Come and See” centers around Flyora’s experiences as a youth, and his loss of innocence, to lump this film in with the other films under the category of Bildungsroman would be a mistake. In death, Flyora is as hopeless and hollow as he was conversely filled with inspiration at the film’s onset.

My Opinion (Emotional): This is a film that drains the soul. I found myself expecting the worst with every new element introduced. Though my pessimistic outlook turned out to be right more often than not, the manner in which events transpire in this film and the degree of horror in which they manifest left me shocked and nauseous. The nausea came from the atrocities so explicitly portrayed, just as well as it came from the terror felt by Flyora. In this regard, conflated with the fact that Kravchenko had never acted before in film, I would argue that Flyora’s portrayal is some of the best acting in a war film, ever.

My Opinion (Technical): Aside from Flyora’s awe-inspiring portrayal, the directing and screenwriting of this film is what elevates it to greatness. Klimov and Adamovich brilliantly combine surrealism with straightforwardness to achieve an artful, shell-shocking product. The film never sugarcoats nor does it play into shock value. The most impressive example of this fact is the lead-up to the film’s most brutal scene — a Nazi burning-to-death of an entire community. The scene before the devastation shows the encroachment of Nazi troops onto a Belorussian village — first it is a disjointed trickling of them, but slowly the incoming Germans morph into that of a singular titanic malevolence, joined together by shared evil aspirations. Most of the film features little dialogue, as Flyora is left partially deaf by the row of Nazi bombings in the beginning. This choice on the part of Klimov and Adamovich is terrific, as it forces us to absorb the sight of horrors without heavily relying on audio cues. The penultimate scene is the best of the film and arguably one of the most powerful in cinematic history. A montage of clips showing the rise of the Nazis is played in reverse, starting with Hitler’s later years and ending with a photo of him as a baby, and is interspersed with a rage-filled Flyora shooting at a photo of the German dictator.

Overall Rating: Despite its bleakness, I’d highly recommend experiencing this incredibly portrayed account of the evil of which humanity is capable. For its excellent acting and equally excellent direction and storytelling, I’d give this film a 9.3/10. The main knock I have on the film is the weak performances of many of the supporting characters.

If You Like This, You’ll Also Like: Grave of the Fireflies (1988), City of God (2002) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).