Come and See (NR) One of the most welcome additions to the DVD scene over the past year or so has been the ongoing series of titles produced by the Russian Cinema Council. The majority of RusCiCo's output, so far, has consisted of Russian fairy tales (although fairy tale is an admittedly poor description for grown-up fantasy masterpieces like Rusla and Ludmilla or Vij).
RusCiCo's latest DVD release, Come and See, is no less fantastic than anything they've previously produced, but it's a world away from the realm of fairy tales. And although Come and See was once described by the legendary writer J.G. Ballard as the greatest war film ever made, it's not really a war film either, at least not in the traditional sense. It would be difficult and maybe even a bit dishonest to try to compare Come and See to other films, but if I were forced to do so at gunpoint, Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line might come to mind, with maybe a touch of Tarkovsky and even a dash of Apocalypse Now thrown in for good measure.
The film is as lyrical and meditative as Malick's film and, frequently, as brutal and unexpectedly hallucinatory as Coppola's opus. And, like so many of the sublime works of Andrei Tarkovsky, one gets the feeling that time is being sculpted into something terrible and, sometimes, beautiful.
Come and See takes place during WWII, and tells the story of a young Russian boy named Florya (Alexei Kravchenko) who joins the partisan resistance against the invading Nazis. Florya finds himself orphaned after his family is murdered and then, separated from his unit and nearly deaf from exploding shells, proceeds to wander through a nightmarish landscape of astonishing brutality and death.
Kravchenko delivers one of the most effective performances ever by a child actor (and one of the most controversial, owing to the fact that he was actually hypnotized for the role). As in real life, director Elem Klimov juxtaposes moments of exquisite poetry with devastating scenes of unimaginable horror, the cumulative effect being a film experience quite unlike any other.
As with RusCiCo's other DVD releases, Come and See (which is distributed domestically by Kino on Video) is beautifully produced. The image quality of Klimov's 1985 film is a bit rough around the edges (grain and compression problems abound), but the increased clarity of the digital remastering does wonders for the film's already powerful imagery.
The 142-minute movie is spread over two discs, with a bounty of incredible extra features, including fascinating interviews with Klimov, Kravchenko and production designer Victor Petrov, and a pair of unforgettable featurettes incorporating some intensely graphic historical footage of Nazi atrocities. The DVD's handsomely designed menus and 5.1 surround soundtracks are available in Russian, English or French, and both the film and all of the extras are fully subtitled in an amazing array of 13 languages (everything from Portuguese to Arabic and Hebrew).