The Nazis invaded Byelorussia with a scorched earth policy burning villages to the ground & killing the whole of the peasant population. Come & See is set in that historical reality, a powerful antiwar film from the point of view of a young boy, Florya, who after finding a rifle hurries home for the last meal his mother will ever make for him then joins the Partisans.
He thereafter becomes eye-witness to shocking atrocities. There is no cinematic Romance of Battle in this film. It is endlessly horrific. The face of the young actor who plays Florya (Aleksei Kravchenko) is amazingly expressive, from his fresh-faced innocence at the beginning, to his looks of increasingly traumatized terror. About midway through the film his face is a mask of glowering unbelieving madness.
But thereafter, the director's one unfortunate artistic choice in presenting Florya's disintegration went a step too far, by intruding old-age make-up to show Florya turning prematurely into a wizened ancient. This is eventually so exaggerated, the make-up so layered, that it has the effect of eradicating his actorly ability to convey his physical & emotional deterioration with his amazingly expressive face.
During an early bombardment, Florya partially loses his hearing, & this provides for the most remarkable of altered soundscapes. This has the effect of heightening the element of the grotesque, besides making it nearly impossible for Florya to communicate with more than a horrified gaze.
Ninety percent of the film is extraordinary & it is only the ending which mixes the heavily made-up Florya's final madness with a collage of historical footage of nazi activities. After the horror experienced by this child, all that was really needed in the end was to see him amidst such incomprehensible carnage inexplicably alive but spiritually destroyed.
In the cinematic literature against war, this is not quite the of Harp of Burma, Fires on the Plain or The Grand Illusion. But in its sheer refusal to romanticise anything to do with war, Come & See is one of the strongest films for any second-tier of great movies of truth.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl