Episode 44: Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985)

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In this episode, I talk about Elem Klimov’s monumental 1985 Soviet film, “Come and See,” which follows a young man named Florya who witnesses atrocities and violence that happen in Nazi-occupied Belarus in 1943. The film is both personal and historical. Klimov himself experienced the Second World War as a child in Stalingrad. He was forever scarred by what he witnessed. Together with writer, Ales Adamovich, Klimov wrote the script for “Come and See” and based it on real-life testimonies. Over 600 villages were destroyed by the Nazis in Belarus during the Second World War. In the end, around 2 million people in Belarus lost their lives during the war. This film bears witness to their suffering and it’s also a searing representation of the horror of war. Klimov resists glorifying violence. Instead, he shows us the sickening and frightening reality of what war is and what it does to human lives. While the film is graphic, it is also restrained, often only showing us things from afar, like a glimpse of a pile of dead bodies or the sounds of people burning in a building. I discuss how I think this is one of the most important films about war and atrocity ever made and how a film like this can awaken our sense of morality and truly transform the viewer.

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