top of page

Russian film Come and See demands our position in the face of horror

Flyora's (Aleksey Kravchenko) eyes plead with us for a moral and political stance. How far does your indifference go?

In the capitalist system, there are two types of people. Some get very rich from dead bodies, and some are or will be dead bodies.

In this economic system, the only possible accounting is the one that calculates the cost of the corpse about the profit received from its production.

It is, therefore, no wonder that the management of the pandemic ensures maximum enrichment per buried body. A question remains: of the types described above, which person are you?

In a not-so-distant past, the mass production of corpses in the name of profit was far less hygienic than the current one. It passed away from tubes in tracheas placed by exhausted health workers in crowded ICUs.

In World War II, the killing took place in the open, in concentration camps, and even inside churches. This last example is part of the Russian film Come and See (Idi i smotri, 1985), directed by Elem Klimov.

The film tells the story of teenager Flyora (Aleksey Kravchenko), a peasant in the village of Khatyn, who, after finding a weapon, joins the guerrillas fighting the German invasion of Belarus in 1943.

Klimov has made an overpowering film that uses epic resources to deliver a simple message: come, see, and don't forget. His character Flyora is a witness to the horror, causing him to see acts of pure cruelty and escape by mere chance.

These narrative choices have solid motives. Based on Flyora´s point of view, Klimov delivers a brutal cinematic experience that aims to make those who watch witnesses too.

If a film is an exercise of representation of reality, it can also be a tool to remember facts that should not be forgotten so that they do not happen again. It is the eye of a camera that was not there at the time of the event but wants to show it in the best way.

With the formal choices of the director, the act of watching the film becomes an active exercise in History. It is a call to our responsibility as witnesses. There is no entertainment in Come and See.

In several moments, point-of-view shots show what a character is looking at. In others, the actors look straight into the camera and say their lines as if in conversation with the public. These epic moments seek the active gaze of those who watch.

In a sense, Klimov reaches the technical limit possible to bring the spectator into the action. He wants us to feel Flyora's pain at having a gun pointed at his head. He wants us to age like his protagonist.

In the church scene, the unimaginable: peasants and their families, including children, are burned alive by the Nazis.

The representation tries to be true to life: of the 9,200 localities destroyed in the USSR during World War II, 5,295 are located in Belarus. More than 600 villages, like Khatyn, were annihilated with their entire population. About 2,230,000 Soviets, a third of Belarus's inhabitants, were killed during the years of the German invasion.

The film's title is an allusion to chapter 6, verses 7 and 8, of the Apocalypse of St. John: "When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come and see!", and I looked, and behold a pale horse, and the name of him that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him. And power was given to him over a fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence, and with the wild beasts of the earth."

(A final thought on Nazi cruelty and the current Brazilian situation. On May 6, 2021, (on this day, the daily average of deaths by Covid-19 was 2,500 in Brazil), the civil police of Rio de Janeiro invaded Jacarezinho favela and executed 27 people. After watching Come and See, it is impossible not to notice the military similarity in the tactics of destruction in both situations. Read here about the victims).

In our historical time, those who survive are witnesses. Do not forget.


bottom of page