(USSR 1985 142m) DVD1/2
Aka. Idi i Smotri
Ode to Lily of the Valley
p/d Elem Klimov w Ales Adamovich, Elem Klimov book Ales Adamovich ph Alexei Rodionov ed Valeriya Belova m Oleg Yanchenko art Viktor Petrov
Aleksei Kravchenko (Florya Gaishun, the boy), Oleg Mironova (Glasha, the girl), Lyubomiris Lautsiavitchus (Kosach), Vladas Bagdonas, Victor Lorentz,
Anyone who has seen the Kino DVD of this film will recall that the title menu is accompanied by the use of Mozart’s immortal “Requiem” (the ‘Lacrimosa’, if memory serves). It isn’t actually heard until the fade-out and yet, despite waiting well over two hours to understand its use, in truth it takes only a few minutes of Klimov’s film to comprehend its suitability. Mozart’s final musical masterpiece has provided backing to numerous films, from the obvious Amadeus to Elizabeth, but never had it been used more potently or more appropriately. Just as Mozart’s piece is a deathly lament, so is Klimov’s film. Not in any other film has war been shown so apocalyptically and so frighteningly accurately. For my money you can take the pretensions Oliver Stone’s ‘Nam trilogy and Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Empire of the Sun (which also told of a boy damaged by war) and flush them down the loo for, in comparison, they are child’s play.
Florya is a teenaged boy living at a remote home with his mother and sister in 1943 Belarus when he is encouraged to join the Resistance. His mother cannot bear to see him leave, but leave he does. Among the Resistance he meets a young girl, Glasha, beloved of the Resistance leader, and barely a year or two older than him. They seem to fall in love, though consummation is put on hold even when the Resistance leaders leave the two behind out of pity for their youth. At first with Glasha and later without, he encounters horror upon horror, with acts of such bestial ferocity as to leave young Florya even numbed to the extent that when the girl hobbles to him near the end, beaten, bloodied and brutally repeatedly abused, he can only turn away.
Right from the opening sequences we have a feeling of doom, from the dispassionate, haunting recordings of ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ that play as Florya wanders home across the desolate waste of his homeland. Its feral bleak tone coming across as like a 20th century update of the medieval murderers, rapists and bandits of Vlacil’s Marketa Lazarova, but the fact that the events depicted happened in living memory is all the more shocking. The inherent inhumanity and soulless existences on display are among the most harrowing in screen history. It is with no exaggeration when I say that Pasolini’s Salò or the most depraved, degenerate European pornography would be easy to sit through compared to Klimov’s film. Just to think of such scenes as the young boy and girl’s trawl through a filthy swamp, or the mass murder of a group of villagers by hand grenade, fire and machine gun, or the discarded pile of bodies including his family that Florya luckily doesn’t see, or the young girl dragged by her hair to a truck to be brutally gang-raped is enough to make one see the aptness of the title. Just as the witnesses of the devastation wrought by the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are summoned with the three simple words “come and see”, so we are invited by Klimov to visit an apocalypse purely of our own doing. Not only is he accusing war, but humanity itself, of allowing such atrocities to take place. Just to view the astonishing transformation of its protagonist from laughing teen to horrendously prematurely aged, wrinkled and grey-haired youth is enough to reduce the most heartless to tears. For this we must not just credit Klimov, but Kravchenko, whose performance is gut-wrenchingly real. Inevitably, he finally loses it and repeatedly fires his gun at a fallen picture of Hitler – and thus beginning a montage tracing Hitler’s life back to the point of firing one final shot into a photograph of baby Führer. To sum up, the best I can say is that it’s the sort of film which would be perfect source material for the Ludovico technique in A Clockwork Orange, and a torturous viewing experience that should be mandatory for all.