Film #32 in the World War II Marathon is like a nightmare, a nightmare that you can never wake up from!
Screenplay By: Ales Adamovich & Elem Klimov
Directed By: Elem Klimov
A town is in chaos, soldiers are herding its citizens like sheep. Degradation and humiliation takes place at every turn. The offenders outnumber the victims and the victims appear to be powerless to stop what is happening to them. They are shepherded into the town square and then into the largest empty barn the town has to offer. We know what is coming, there can be only one end to this set-up, yet we hope, we plead and we wish to just wake up. We want the nightmare to end, atrocities like this shouldn’t happen, they shouldn’t be visited upon the common populace with no rhyme or reason behind the degradation, humiliation and ultimate death. Yet, the more we beg and plead the more we realize no reprieve is coming, not for the townspeople and not for the viewer. We are trapped in a nightmare that refuses to end, a nightmare from which their is no escape and a nightmare that is all too real.
If the above horrifies you in any way, then maybe just maybe Idi I Smotri isn’t the film for you. What Elem Klimov has crafted isn’t the easiest film to swallow, not just for the horrific acts contained within but because of the way Klimov chooses to deliver the message of his film. The reason Idi I Smotri feels like a nightmare is because Klimov has formed his film around a dream like presentation. What we see is reality, but it comes at us in waves, like a dream or like a work of poetry, very, very ugly poetry. Idi I Smotri is very much a movie not to be seen with a plot or characters in mind, but rather with the feeling it can invoke in the viewer.
Klimov frames the picture around a young boy named Florya, and Florya becomes our guide, our shaman through this dream. What turns Idi I Smotri into a nightmare is that we can’t trust our guide, he is bullied around by the world he is supposed to be guiding us through. If he doesn’t have control over his actions then how are we supposed to trust what we see? This furthers the dream interpretation, and as Klimov throws senseless act after senseless act at the screen the audience can’t help but wonder what the point of it all is? And that, my friends, is when Klimov shows off how talented of a filmmaker he really is, because the fact that there isn’t a point to war is the point of it all.
Idi I Smotri feels like a dream and slowly turns into a nightmare, but it is in actuality all too real and a part of the history of our world. Near the end Florya appears to lose it and shoots aimlessly at a picture of Adolf Hitler, it appears to be a cathartic experience but then Klimov uses stock footage of Hitler and the beginning of the war to throw the viewer for a loop. It’s as if Klimov wants the audience to think that if this one man, this one tyrant had been killed then all we had known would not have happened. Klimov takes us back through time in a few seconds, to the time before there was a Hitler, then suddenly the stock footage is gone and Florya rejoins his fellow partisans on the march. History can’t be undone, what has happened did in fact happen, and as senseless and pointless as war may be it did happen and people suffered because of it and will always suffer because of war. The nightmare of the film will never end, we may turn off our TV, we may leave the theater, but somewhere, even if we can’t see it a war continues to be fought, blood continues to be spilled and the nightmare continues, always.
Well, I sure as hell went meta on your asses in this review, hopefully going all meta didn’t distract from the fact that I loved Idi I Smotri. It was certainly a hard watch, I certainly didn’t want to be pulled into a nightmare from which I could never leave. But, it was a powerful watch, one with images that will stay with me for the times to come and a work that made me think, and you all know how I love them movies that make me use the old brain noodle. Idi I Smotri is yet another great discovery in this marathon, and that’s part of the reason for doing marathons in the first place, so take my word and see it, especially if you’re looking for a war film that is far from the norm.