Come and See is a 1985 Soviet war drama directed by Elem Klimov. This war film is about the occurring during the Nazi German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR, very intensely made with the superb motion of a psychological thriller starring Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova star as the protagonists Flyora and Glasha. The screenplay by Klimov and Ales Adamovich had to wait eight years for approval, as the film was finally produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II, and was a large box-office hit in the Soviet Union
As we know it’s practically difficult to portray honest happening of the war and it hostilities, especially depicting those repulsions of life during wartime, though director Elem Klimov’s brave attempt of the harrow tale of viciously realistic war picture from ‘Platoon’, to ‘Saving Private Ryan’, to ‘Cross of Iron’, not many of the movie makers has come close to achieve this goal than Klimov in ‘Come and See’.
Time immemorial, the history behind this film is very catastrophic and heart rendering, the scenes onscreen and the images are the real life experience of the director Klimov himself (apparently his name is denoted from Engels, Lenin & Marx) was raised in Stalingrad. He was forced to flee with his mother across the Volga under heavy shelling from the German army. The horrors he observed is this film. Klimov in one of his interview said, ‘Had I shown the whole truth, even I could not have watched it.’ The other major event that affected production was the death of Klimov’s wife Larissa Shepitko, who was also a film maker and his love of his life was killed in a car accident shortly before the film shooting began. Her death infuse every frame of this consequential film.
This films ‘Come and See’ (tittle originates from the ‘Book of Revelations’, as John is invited to witness the coming of apocalypse) is set in Belorussia on the backdrop of WWll in 1943. Two Belarusian boys are digging in a sand field looking for abandoned rifles in order to join the Soviet partisan forces. Yustin, an old man, warns them not to dig (using sarcasm and reverse psychology). One of the boys, Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko), finds an SVT-40 rifle (Soviet semi-automatic battle rifle). The next day partisans arrive at his house and take Flyora with them, to the dismay of Flyora’s mother. She fears that the loss of her son, like his father before him, will lessen her and her daughters’ chances of survival.
The partisans converge in a forest and prepare to confront the Nazis. Flyora joins their forces as a low-rank militiaman and is ordered to do all the labor in the detachment. When the partisans are ready to move on, their commander, Kosach, orders Flyora to remain behind at the camp in reserve and exchange boots with one of his fellows. The frustrated Flyora walks into the forest in tears and comes across someone else who has been left behind, Glafira (or Glasha, played by Olga Mironova), a beautiful girl infatuated with Kosach. The girl becomes delusional and confuses Flyora with Kosach and kisses him. Suddenly, German airplanes appear and begin to drop German parachutists, and the camp comes under heavy artillery fire causing Flyora to go deaf.
In the hiding from the forest, the two return to Flyora’s home village. His house is empty but his sisters’ dolls are lined up on the floor and the place is overrun by flies. They find a still-warm dinner in the oven and try to eat, but Glasha vomits seeing the flies and dolls. Denying that his family was killed, Flyora believes that his family must be hiding on a nearby island across a bog. As they run from the village, Glasha turns and sees a huge pile of bodies stacked behind Flyora’s house. Unable to accept that his family is dead, Flyora becomes hysterical as he and Glasha painstakingly wade through the bog. At the island they meet a resistance fighter, Roubej. Glasha tells Roubej that Flyora is mad. Roubej takes the pair to a large number of other villagers who have fled the Nazis. Flyora sees Yustin, who had been doused in petrol and burnt by the Nazis, and accepts that his family did not survive.
Roubej then takes Flyora and two others to find food. They run into SS activity and the food stored is too well-defended to be raided. Flyora unknowingly leads the group through a minefield in which two of the companions are killed. A German plane drops empty liquor bottles. At dusk, Roubej and Flyora sneak up to an occupied town and manage to steal a cow from a Nazi-collaborating farmer, but as they flee across the fields, they are shot at. Both Roubej and the cow are killed. The next morning, Flyora, unable to move the dead cow, finds a horse and cart. He attempts to take the horse at the dismay of the owner who stops Flyora. They hear the sound of approaching German soldiers. The farmer helps Flyora hide his partisan jacket and rifle in the field, and takes him to his village of Perekhody, where they hurriedly discuss a fake identity for him.
A Nazi Einsatzkommando (Nazi’s mobile killing squad) unit moves into the village and herds everyone into a wooden church, locking them all inside. The German Obersturmführer (Senior Assault Leader of Nazi) announces to the terrified people that anyone will be allowed to climb out of the church through a side window, as long as they leave their children behind. No one moves, but Flyora takes up their offer and climbs out. Shortly after, a woman attempts to climb out with her child, but she is dragged away by her hair and the toddler is thrown back through the window. Grenades are thrown into the church, which is then set on fire and shot at; Flyora watches the inferno of burning Byelorussian peasants while the Nazis stand and applaud, taking photographs and laughing, and listening to music. The woman who escaped the church is put into a moving truck with a group of soldiers and gang-raped.
Flyora wanders out of the village, where he sees that the partisan soldiers have ambushed the Germans as they fled from the burning village. He then goes to recover his rifle and jacket from the field where he had hid them earlier. As he turns to leave, Flyora comes across Glasha, who has been raped and is in a fugue state (a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia). Flyora returns to the destroyed village and finds that his fellow partisans have captured a small group of the attackers, along with their Byelorussian collaborators and the German SS commander. The main collaborator, insisting that they are not to blame for the slaughter, translates the words of the German commander, who claims to be a good man and a doting grandfather. The Obersturmführer is disgusted and angered by his commander’s cowardice, and tells his captors that they, as an inferior race and communist sympathizers, will eventually be exterminated. The collaborator douses the prisoners with the can of petrol Flyora brought, but the crowd, disgusted by the sight, shoots them all down before they can be set on fire, ending their lives relatively painlessly.
As the partisans leave, Flyora notices a framed portrait of Adolf Hitler in a puddle and shoots it – the first time he has actually used his rifle. After each shot, there is a sequence of montages that play in reverse and regress in time, depicting the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich backwards from corpses at a concentration camp to images of Hitler as a schoolboy; and finally a picture of the infant Adolf in his mother’s lap. Flyora shoots at each of the images – yet he cannot bring himself to fire at the still shot of baby Hitler. A title card states that “628 villages in Byelorussia were burnt to the ground with all their inhabitants.”
The film’s final scene has Flyora walks and blends in with his partisan comrades marching through the woods, away into the dark of the trees……
Watching ‘Come and See’ is too blunt, real, and a tough film to criticize. It achieves precisely what it intends. In its narrative, this film opens up the serious exploits and the helpless people caught in the desolation of the war and genocide. Klimov’s celebrated technique of ageing the Flyora’s face over the course of the film. The young boy fresh faced to worn-down and here you can notice the impassive mask of disorientation as the movie goes and so is the gory of the war…..
The original soundtrack is rhythmically amorphous music composed by Oleg Yanchenko. At a few key points in the film existing music is used, sometimes mixed in with Yanchenko’s music (such as Johann Strauss Jr.’s Blue Danube). At the end, during the montage, music by Richard Wagner is used, most notably the Tannhäuser Overture and the Ride from Die Walküre. The conclusion of the film uses the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem. The Soviet marching song “The Sacred War” is also played in the movie once.
The film was shot in chronological order over a period of nine months. Aleksey Kravchenko in the character of ‘Flyora” says that he underwent “the most debilitating fatigue and hunger. I kept a most severe diet, and after the filming was over I returned to school not only thin, but grey-haired.” ‘Come and see’ is a hard film and a missive in collateral damage through a real life human experience, a remarkable attempt from the director Klimov.
- Directed by Elem Klimov
- Written by Elem Klimov & Ales Adamovich
- Starring: Aleksei Kravchenko; Olga Mironova
- Music by Oleg Yanchenko
- Cinematography Alexei Rodionov
- Editing by Valeriya Belova
- Studio: Mosfilm & Belarus film
- Distributed by Sovexport film
- Release dates: July 1985 (Moscow)& October 1985 (Chicago)
- Run time of 142 minutes
- Country: Soviet Union
- Language: Russian; Belarusian & German