Come and See

Come and See aka Idi i smotri (Elem Klimov, 1985)

After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet Army and experiences the horrors of World War II.

Often described as the most realistic War film ever made, Elem Klimov’s final film, Come and See is a tour de force of acting, cinematography, and human extremism exposition. This engaging film of beauty and ugliness of a teenage boy who lives through World War II in Belorussia and who is taken to fight along the Russians against the Nazi occupation and its extermination of those who are called the White Russians.

Midway into this nightmarish vision of one of the worst aspects of humanity in the 20th Century, War and the extermination of nations, I felt like if I was watching the ultimate horror movie. Knowing that this kind of story never ends well I tried not to get too attached to the characters but from the first moments I was hooked with the kids playing on the beach looking to play war during War. As young boys we imagined playing war was fun and wanted to shoot and live those action movie moments. However, Florian (A. Kravchenko) gets way more than he asked for. Not long after he finds an old rifle he is taken from his mother and two young sisters to fight with the Red Army. Just as he is we are the silent witness of the worst humans can do. What frightens the most with Come and See is how it is probably not exaggerated how the horrors and the cruelty is done.

Often, the main critic about War films is that it depicts an exciting vision of killing enemies and action movie of good and bad guys. By far, Come and See is the most efficient anti-War film ever made. I’ve read somewhere that compared to it Apocalypse Now is the ultimate date movie, well Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket are rewatchable movies and have an entertainment value that can distance us from the horrible aspects and are mostly artistic visions of War from their directors. With Klimov’s film there’s a high cinematic value and he probably used some of the most manipulative and involving techniques to makes us feel the disgust of War but no one can stay passive with this film.

As much as the qualities of Come and See are obvious as it is depicting one of the worst nightmarish visions, we feel that the manipulation and the strings of sensationalism are a bit overwhelming. Some scenes are almost unwatchable and no one is spared. Just as the conclusion of the film evokes, History can’t be erased or reversed and sadly monsters like the Nazis have lived before and nothing can be done to correct that. It is a bit pedestrian or blockbuster label but Come and See fells into the mandatory film category and not for the faint of heart too. It reminds us of the U.N.’s statement after the Second World War of never again we must let this happen.

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