While many movies about World War II have been made over the years, few often deal with the emotional impact of the conflict, let alone seen from the perspective from those who served in the war on either side. Elem Klimov’s Come and See chronicles that emotional impact through the eyes of a young kid while also touching upon a event in WWII rarely captured on film. Kino had previously released the film on DVD, but Criterion has picked it up for inclusion into its vast collection for its Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 5/5
In Nazi occupied Belarus during WWII, a young teenager named Flyora (Alexei Kravchenko) finds an abandoned rifle near his village and hopes to join the resistance fighters. He does, but ends up being left behind when the group moves on; along with a fellow partisan girl, Flyora soon finds himself amongst a hellish landscape where dreams of glory are quickly replaced with the nightmarish reality of war as he wanders across the Belarusian countryside. It’s an experience that will leave him scarred both physically and psychologically.
Regarded as one of the greatest war movies ever made, Come and See is a stark example of the antiwar film that transcends its country of origin. Director Elem Klimov, who as a child witnessed and survived the siege of Stalingrad (present day Volgograd) during WWII, spares nothing and no one in depicting the horrors of war, using our senses against us in key scenes; a prime example is during the forest bombing scene where Flyora loses part of his hearing – we are forced to endure his suffering in a tonal sense as well as visual. The movie is also notable for taking a look at the horrifying Belarusian Genocide that was – and still is – rarely mentioned or made the subject of in movies; again, our senses aren’t spared especially during scenes where Flyora is unable to convince a group of villagers that they’re being led to their deaths – we can only helplessly watch in shock and horror at the carnage taking place as well as the disgust in which the Nazi soldiers react and treat their victims. Pulling all of this together is the painstaking care in which each scene is set up, staged, shot and edited by Klimov and his crew for maximum impact; it’s even more impressive knowing that the director would walk away from filmmaking entirely after this movie, making this his lasting testament to world cinema. In short, Come and See is filled with scenes and images that will haunt you long after the movie ends; it’s a movie truly deserving of the acclaim as one of the greatest war movies of all time and definitely warrants a spot as one of the greatest movies in world cinema (not just Russia) in the 20th Century.
The major reason why the film works is the outstanding performance of Alexei Kravchenko as Flyora; he has since gone on to have very distinguished career in Russian cinema, having made such an indelible impression here, his very first film. Olga Mironova also makes a memorable impression as the girl Flyora meets and ends up accompanying during their separation from the partisan group; it would be her first and only film role. While these two young actors are the standouts in this movie, there are some notable moments from the supporting cast. Among those who stand out include Liubomiras Laucevicius as the leader of the partisan fighters, Vladas Bagdonas as the partisan fighter fatally wounded while trying to procure a cow for Flyora’s village, Evgeniy Tilicheev as the Ukrainian collaborator that seals the fate of the village of Perekhody (a fictional stand in for the real life Khatyn), Juri Lumiste as a fanatical young Nazi officer, Viktors Lorencs as the general responsible for the village slaughter, Vasiliy Domrachyov as a crazed Nazi soldier during the Perekhody massacre, Viktor Manaev as the partisan trying to take the group’s photo in the camp scenes and Tatyana Shestakova as Flyora’s mother who unsuccessfully pleads with her son not to go to war.
3D Rating: NA
The movie is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio for this release, taken from a 2K transfer of a restoration of the original 35mm camera negative performed by Mosfilm. Film grain is organic, with fine details, skin tones, shadows and color palette given a very faithful representation. Problems like dirt, scratches and tears are very minor here, meaning that this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video, easily besting the previous Kino DVD release of the movie.
The film’s original monaural soundtrack is presented on a PCM track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear along with the immersive sound mix; the music track (which features excerpts from Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor) also exhibits great clarity, fidelity and direction as well. There’s very little in terms of issues like distortion, crackling or hissing present here; again, this is another improvement over the Kino DVD and likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 5/5
Interview with cinematographer Roger Deakins (9:59) – The acclaimed cinematographer talks about the film’s unforgettable imagery and some of the visual details – like the use of Steadicam in the movie’s final sequence – in this brand new interview.
Interview with German Klimov, frequent collaborator and brother of director Elem Klimov (26:40) – In this brand new interview, German talks about his brother and his career, including the troubles he faced in bringing the movie to life.
Flaming Memory – Three short films from the documentary series by director Viktor Dashuk featuring first hand accounts from survivors of the Belarusian Genocide during WWII; they include Handful of Sand (10:03), Woman from the Killed Village (28:35) and Mute Scream (10:47).
Archival 2001 interview with director Elem Klimov (20:46) – The director talks about the movie as well as how surviving the siege of Stalingrad as a young boy during WWII influenced him in this interview.
Archival 2001 interview with actor Alexei Kravchenko (13:07) – The actor recalls how he landed the lead role as well as a few of the challenges he faced in playing the part in this interview.
Archival 2001 interview with production designer Viktor Petrov (7:44) – This brief interview highlights the challenges Petrov had in bringing Klimov’s nightmarish vision of war to life.
The Story of the Film “Come and See” (10:25) – This short promotional film features behind the scenes footage and on set interviews with Klimov, Kravchenko and writer Ales Adamovich.
Theatrical Re-release Trailer (1:52)
Booklet featuring essays by critic Mark Le Fanu and poet Valzhyna Mort and notes about the transfer
Brimming with stark and visceral imagery, Come and See is one of the greatest movies ever made about World War II and also one of the most haunting ever made. Criterion has provided the definitive edition of the film on home video, with a superb HD transfer and great special features on the movie and the real life events that inspired it. One of the label’s top releases for 2020 is very highly recommended and is absolutely worth upgrading from the Kino DVD.https://www.amazon.com/Come-See-Criterion-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B0863FG2VH/ref=sr_1_2?crid=I04Y8MJSYEMY&dchild=1&keywords=come+and+see&qid=1597599829&s=movies-tv&sprefix=come%2Caps%2C865&sr=1-2