Acclaimed Soviet war film debuts on Blu-ray 5 Stars

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.

Come and See (1985)
Released: 17 Oct 1985
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 142 min
Director: Elem Klimov
Genre: Drama, War
Cast: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Laucevicius, Vladas Bagdonas
Writer(s): Ales Adamovich (story), Ales Adamovich (screenplay), Elem Klimov (screenplay)
Plot: After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II.
IMDB rating: 8.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Criterion Collection
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 22 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 06/30/2020
MSRP: $39.95

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.

Video: 5/5

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.

Audio: 5/5

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

Overall: 5/5

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

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Ronald Epstein

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I am really happy that you finally had the chance to view and review this very powerful film.

I never heard of it before, that is until members started talking about it on HTF. When many of them referred to it as the most disturbing, depressing film they had ever seen I felt it was worthy of a blind purchase.

I have absolutely no disagreements with your assessment of the film. It is one of the greatest and most haunting films of its kind.

For me to sit here and even pick it apart would be very unfair but I thought I'd put it up for discussion.

I thought the film's first half could have been shortened. I didn't understand the visuals and initial ideas being portrayed when Flyora first meets the villager girl in the woods.

However, once the film gets into its second act, it becomes an incredibly horrific watch. It will haunt you for days.
 
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Ernest

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Excellent movie telling in detail how WW II effected the people who lived through that era. Like The Painted Bird, In Darkness, Counterfeiters, The Black Book, Innocents, Frantz and many others movies showing the horror of war not individual battles. Very happy to see Criterion release this movie knowing the transfer and subtitles would be excellent.
 
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JoeStemme

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Right from the opening scene Director Elem Klimov captures the viewer's attention as if to say, "Watch this." Actors stare right into the camera and seem to address the audience. Still, as the story unfolds we soon realize that this isn't an invitation, but almost a dare - Come and See....IF you Dare.

The early scenes play out in a, more or less, straightforward fashion as a young teen boy, Flyora (Aleksey Kravchenko) joins the Belarus military against the wishes of his family. It is WWII and the Germans have advanced into the then Soviet republic. The older soldiers send the boy back home as too young, thinking they are doing the right thing.

Flyora soon stumbles in a German bombing run. The shell-shocked boy encounters an equally young girl, Glasha (Olga Mironova) and they make it back to his home. He has been caught in a no man's land - neither fighting with the army, nor able to defend his village. The lengthy sequence plays out as a surrealistic horror show, the boy's mind unable to discern reality from his imagination. It's a brilliantly vivid and haunting passage that ends with a lingering shot of the moon in the sky.

As if mirroring the phases of the lunar object, the film moves into the next act. Even as Flyora regains his senses, his nightmare has only begun. He get separated from Glasha and wanders from place to place, one hair-raising situation to another. Whenever a respite from his journey seems to occur, something even more foreboding confronts him.

The film culminates in a grotesque display of Nazi atrocities. Klimov doesn't cut away. And, we he does it's to fixate on the intense stare of Flyora. His eyes absorbing all. Your eyes. When one casts a first time child actor, one never really knows how they will perform in front a camera - especially, when surrounded by an epic war set. Klemov was fortunate here to have a Kravchenko who could evoke both his chronological youth, but also the maturity beyond those years (he was 13 at the time). Kravchenko was old enough to probably understand at least the basics of the situation, while still being able to convey some innocence. His shocking transformation during the course of the film is chilling (he didn't return to acting for another decade).

It's only during this final sequence where Klimov makes a slight mis-step. The Russian born Director's hatred of WWII Germany, while completely understandable, borders on old Soviet Propaganda for a few moments (the film's original title was "Kill Hitler"). This tiny quibble aside, COME AND SEE is masterful. There's an unflinching ferocity that never lets up. Cinematographer Aleksey Rodionov's compositions are unfailingly precise. The film is framed in the old fashioned 1:37 aspect ratio. No widescreen here. No pretty pictures or landscapes to soothe the viewer. No letting one's eyes wander to the edges of the frame so as not to have to look at the grisly sights. COME AND SEE -- if you dare, indeed.
 
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