Come and See (1985) – A Relentless Masterpiece

The final sequence of the movie has so many interpretations. I tried to think about how this film ended perfectly. Is this about repeating or roll back the history? Is this about reflection or loops from the characters? A teenage boy looks down while staring at the photo of Adolf Hitler. He repeatedly shooting the photo using the rifle he had found. The whole movie never shows the kid shooting at all. Except, this scene emphasizes that he is in a battle between despair and hope. He doesn’t fight anyone, doesn’t serve anyone. He is just nobody and a very curious kid. But, he just didn’t know because they knew this kid was very innocent. He must witness it directly. He must come and see it.

Elem Klimov’s “Come and See” is a simple film. The premise sounds like this: “A young boy found an old rifle buried in the sand. After finding it, he tried hard to join army resistance to fight the German. However, what he only witnessed was a horror of war itself.” At first, the movie has a similar concept from most war movies, especially an anti-war movie. You can call it “Saving Private Ryan” or anything you really savor it. The movie opens with two young boys playing games of war and digging in the sand. After they accidentally dug sand, they found a weapon buried by a recent war.

Meet Aleksey Kravchenko as Florya, a 13 or 14 years old boy who lives with his family. He has a dream of becoming a patriotism hero who can protect his homeland. He really dreamed what if he left his family and jumped into the war. But, his family forbade him to fight those Hitler’s troops in Byelorussia. He was young and even so inappropriate to join the battlefield.

Initially, this new kid on the block still didn’t understand the system in his group. The army indirectly seems to isolate him but he still does his job well. He met Olga Mironova as Glasha, a girl who was older than him. They are friends where they, at first, play manipulation games. Unconsciously, they are in the middle of the red zone. An atomic bomb almost killed them both.

“Come and See” has unpredictable plots. Sometimes, the audience is looking at the main characters in the middle of this horrible situation besides the war itself. The scene when the main character returns to his homeland. What he found was just emptiness, nothingness, but no sound at all. He just can’t accept reality. Suddenly, he felt dead. He seemed to die inside while plunging into the swamp with fear. Then, he saw a sight indicating that this was a reality.

But, the most memorable yet terrifying sequence of all is the Holocaust sequence. It’s one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen in a movie. I don’t even want to see the scene again. It captures the horror of war with full of beauty thanks to Aleksey Rodionov. Rodionov always uses face shot with a close-up medium shot to see the actor’s reaction. It captures what he sees even though we don’t see what he sees, we understand what it really was. As he just watched, he could only see and see. He can’t do anything. While I can say “Schindler’s List” still has humanity in us, “Come and See” really captures the beauty of the horror war.

The movie portrays the beauty of tragedy very realistic. One of the weirdest yet the nightmare sequence in this film is the swamp. We see Kravchenko and Mironova just swim into the swamps. It’s just a narrow space of these two actors. They crawl as much as possible even we desperate to see them trying to cross into the other land. There is a scene when Kravchenko must be able to avoid the real bullets pass above his head. It seems like what he said, 10 bullets almost penetrated his head. This film has no hope at all. It’s just too dark you want to close your ears because you can’t stand it.

The score is so loud but it simply illustrates how the war itself. Everybody is scream whether it’s a crying baby or a squirrel. That ten seconds of silence seems to be the only hope. You feel like you’re relieved so much that you want to rest. But, you know, it will appear again. There is no happiness. It’s just despair. It feels you with full of emptiness and full of darkness. Mozart and Oleg Yanchenko are like other characters from anywhere. We never know. But, their existence makes us feel haunted. It’s like a sound from the sky. It’s more frightening than the sound of a rifle or atomic bomb.

Many people say that this is a “propaganda” film. If everyone says that, it means all war films are bad. Propaganda is the strongest element in the war film itself whether in the anti-war or pro-war movie itself. If it means “Come and See” has a “propaganda”, we also have to blame the ten minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”. “Come and See” is a painful cinema you’ve to experience directly so that you better understand what this film really was. Russians have a lot of great literature and art including films as well. They have Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Sokurov, and etc. And the other one is Elem Klimov. This movie is just hit you harder than anything. There is so much pressure. What is despair and what is hope?

5 out of 5 stars.

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