Tuesday, 8 October 2013

In the Fog

Death can sometimes be preferable to life!

Belarus born Sergeli Loznitsa is best known for his documentaries about the hardships of living in provincial Russia. His second feature film following My Joy in 2010 is the highly acclaimed In the Fog (2012) a World War 11 drama based on a 1989 novella by Vasil Bykov.

It's 1942 and we are in the German occupied Soviet territory of Belarus. Three railway track workers are being escorted to their execution by hanging. The fourth man involved in the derailing of a train is set free. Sushenya is immediately suspected of collaborating with the occupied forces. Two partisans, one an old school friend, arrive at Sushenya's home and escort him into the forest where he starts digging his own grave. The burial party is ambushed by the Germans… an incident that has the effect of turning every thing on its head!

This is a narrative that unfolds at its own pace, never rushed, allowing us time to absorb the story, with intelligent flashbacks that enhance our understanding of what led up to the arrival of Burov and Voitik at Sushenya’s family home. We get minimal dialogue, stirring performances and natural sounds. The slow and precise camerawork by cinematographer Oleg Muti (Beyond the Hills 2012) is beautifully texture, has a muted palette and lighting that helps compose every shot to resemble a piece of artwork.
Burov and Voitek come looking.
Loznitsa’s movie demonstrates the austere tragedy of war and its effects on innocent people who through no fault of there own get caught up in it. A film where death can be preferable to life, where the only relief we, the audience, get from the movies ever-present unease is when we see Sushenya carving a wooden toy for his young son. The film brings to mind Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece about war and adolescence Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Elem Klimov’s 1985 Soviet film Come and See which also deals with the German Belarusian occupation another movie which successfully captured war as a true living hell and of course the brutal reality of the Polish film Roza (2011). In the Fog is a truly challenging film of gripping images about the heartbreak of war albeit away from the conventional battlefield, of humanity at its lowest ebb all seen through the haunted look of actor Vladimir Svirski who plays the unfortunate Sushenya. 

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