Criterion Prediction #207: Come and See, by Alexander Miller
Title: Come and See
Director: Elem Klimov
Cast: Aleksei Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Viktor Lorents
Synopsis: When German forces invade a Belarusian village during WWII, a young man flees immediately to join the neighboring resistance fighters. After struggling to survive, he is forced to witness the systematic obliteration of a nearby village at the hands of the SS and Ukrainian collaborators.
Critique: Movies that play with the notion of real-time are curiosities work just as many times as they feel gimmicky. Then some features feel as if they’re unfurling in real-time when in fact are spanning days, weeks, or hours. This concept of real-time directing can be seen from the likes of High-Noon and Dog Day Afternoon or more recent titles like United 93. But one of the most stirring titles that come to mind after seeing Elem Klimov’s Come and See is Schindler’s List. Spielberg’s direction is at his most potent, and while the film spans years, but the docudrama approach in realizing unforgettable sections (namely the liquidation of the ghetto sequence) has the swirling tumult that is so undeniably inspired by a film like Come and See. Klimov’s jolting anti-war film has the delirium-inducing direction that’s both sobering and hypnotic, the swirling cinematography consistent with Soviet/Russian cinema at this time. In concert with the likes of Mikhail Kalatozhov, Sergei Bondarchuk, or Miklós Jancsó (despite the latter being Hungarian) Klimov’s camera moves with intuition and energy. As if the stylistic notes of The Cranes are Flying and The Red and the White evolved from the relative cultural freedoms precipitating the Perestroika era on the eve of Glasnost.
Perhaps the reforms posed by Gorbachev’s administration aren’t so much the spark that begets the films incendiary tone. But the looming shadow of fascism that is declaratively denounced throughout the movie, especially the jarring final montage — making brilliant use of archival footage and photographs of the Nazi Party, Hitler, and victims of their genocide. Unrelenting and rousing with visceral energy, Come and See is one of the finest condemnations of totalitarianism committed to film.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: For the longest time, Come and See was a title directly associate with Kino Video’s early DVD catalogue. But recently there are rumors of Elem Klimov’s cinema coming to The Criterion Collection, with movies such as Adventures of a Dentist, Welcome, or No Trespassing, and of course Come and See. With the latter Klimov feature being one of his most well-known, it would make sense if we saw this come to The Criterion Collection.