Come and See

Director: Elim Klimov (1985)
Starring: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius
Find it: IMDB

I first became aware of Come and See working my way through the Time Out Top 100 horror films. After embarrassing myself by not having seen nearly enough classics, I decided to watch every film on the list. At no. 100 - Come and See. 'Pooh', I scoffed (yes, I scoff poo) - 'They have just put this foreign language war film on the list because they want people to think that they're all classy and shit. They should have put Maniac Cop on here instead.'

Come and See might indeed be all classy and shit, but make no mistake - it deserves its place on that list. Of all the films I've seen on it, it is by far the most horrifying. And yes, it is actually better than Maniac Cop. Don't let the fact that it's based on reality put you off, either - some of the most terrifying things in the world are based in reality. That's what makes them so scary. My Ex, for example.

Digging in the mud by his home, young Flyora (Kravchenko), finds an old military-issue rifle. He immediately leaves home to join the Soviet partisan forces in their fight against Hitler, much to his mother and sisters' distress. There, he finds himself being distressed for the rest of the time, separated from his unit (who have left him behind for his own good), constantly having bombs dropped near his head and nearly drowning all the time. There's an atmosphere of deep discomfort and unpleasantness about Come and See, and that's before the Nazis even appear.

Come and See, despite not really being a proper horror film, is one of the most haunting, distressing things I have ever seen. It looks, sounds and feels like a horror film though, with a gruesome surrealist streak a mile wide. And judging by the look on poor Flyora's face, I'd venture that he finds it to be pretty damn horrifying himself.

Kravchenko gives what might be the greatest performance I have ever seen from a young person, his oh-so expressive face wordlessly conveying the sheer horror of war. It's like Apocalypse Now, remade in a little boy's face. As the Nazis eventually arrive, you really don't want to go any further or see any more. Their destruction of a small village full of people is unimaginably terrible, like some sort of Nazi Glastonbury. With its long, drawn out scenes of human suffering, it almost challenges you to keep watching.   

Come and See is powerful, distressing and incredibly moving. Is it horror? Yes, and no, but then I don't consider the term 'horror film' to be an insult. It's like a history lesson, crossed with The Shining. Come and See? Only if you like being miserable.

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