Idi I Smotri or Come and See is a heart wrenching account of a boy’s transmogrification from a giggly young boy to a veteran of the war. Based on ‘The Khatyn Story’ by Ales Adamovich, Come and See is director Elem Klimov’s last movie in 1985 and arguably the best ever War movie. Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist, and Der Untergang, to name a few of the critically acclaimed War movies, come a cropper when compared to this Aleksei Kravchenko starrer WW II movie, based on the extirpation of 628 Byelorussian villages and their inhabitants by the SS troops of the German forces in 1943. The movie starts in a desolate place that appears to be a former war zone, with a couple of young boys trying to salvage some useful arms, particularly a gun which is a guarantee for participation in the war against the Nazis.
Throughout the 142 minutes, the movie is sure to keep the audience glued to the seats. The title of the movie suggests a trip not just for Florya (Aleksei Kravchenko) but also for the audience into one of the Byelorussian villages where morality, faith, life, freedom, happiness and humanity was guillotined. The movie depicts the graduation of Florya into an old warhorse even though it happens in a matter of days. Florya’s reckoning with the environment that is out there to exterminate him, fill him with hatred, contempt and loathing for the Nazis as he continues his expedition into the realm of death and persecution in the backdrop of innumerable pograms.
O. Yenchenko’s music and the realistic camera work by Alexei Rodionov are in sync with the subtle use of countryside imagery by Klimov. The scenes are depicted just as the happen in reality without any unnecessary flamboyance yet the pograms are so malignant, sadistic and traumatic to render the use of the plethora of unbidden cataclysmic special effects inconsequential. Here I would like to take the reader on a pseudo-tour on the sets of Idi I Smotri. A lot of uniforms used in by the soldiers in the movie are originals; actor Aleksei Kravchenko in an interview revealed the use of real bullets in the movie, with the bullets sometimes fizzing past his head. Klimov planned to have Aleksei hypnotized by a psychotherapist during the most apocalyptic scenes so that they wouldn’t affect his psyche, though Aleksei Kravchenko was unaffected by hypnosis and had to pretend all the way. According to New York Times review Idi I Smotri is a moviemaker’s tour de force.
The movie is an unremitting parable alongside the un-quenching thirst of chaining the world by the barbaric Nazis who considered themselves as the sole and worthy proprietors of the world. The images from the movie have left an indelible imprint on my mind but if my life depended on one scene from the movie, it would be the burning of all the villagers in the community hall; it is not just about the killing but the sadistic pleasure derived by the trigger-happy German soldiers out of the whole ghoulish affair. The film was initially named ‘Kill Hitler’ but because of its inappropriateness to the theme of the film it was later changed.
Idi I Smotri is an allegory that makes no bones about what Nazis did in Byelorussia; Florya symbolizing, the asphyxiation of human freedom and innocence. Two seemingly penny-ante scenes sum up the director’s creed in this film i.e., the biggest casualty of war being the macabre carnage of innocence; in the first scene the partisan Byelorussian force is shown moving in the direction of the forest, to meet the Nazis while in the second, which also happens to be the last scene of the movie, the Byelorussian force is again moving towards some battlefield. These scenes per se appear a mundane extension of the necessary formality of continuity in the film, but on a different level these scenes depict the transmogrification of an individual, a country or humanity in general towards an irretrievable condition of hatred and muteness resulting from an inability to react with venom. In the first scene Florya is green as grass to the vagaries of war while in the last scene his position is taken up by a young boy who follows the marching Byelorussian force while Florya is giving went to his anger by firing wrathfully at Hitler’s photo, before joining them on the road to redemption.
In one line………………..Take a bow Master Klimov.
Yasir Yousuf Bhat
[Image courtesy: http://data.filmbyen.net/images/gallery_old/comeandsee_pic1.jpg]