people are born to curry favor with successive regimes, regardless of changing
ideologies. There are also those who are
constitutionally incapable of ingratiating themselves with the powers that
be. Sushenya is definitely the latter
sort, but through a cruel twist, he finds himself suspected of collaboration in
Sergei Loznitsa’s WWII drama, In the Fog (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Burov knocks on his door late one night, Sushenya knows the partisan has come
to execute him. Burov would have done
the deed right there and then, were it not for the presence of the condemned
man’s son. Instead, he and his squirrely
comrade Voitek march Sushenya out into the Belorussian forest. However, German patrols are out in force this
particular night, drastically altering the course of Burov’s score-settling
the three main characters, backstory is truly destiny. Through extended flashbacks, Loznitsa shows
the audience the ironic events that inevitably led the trio into the fateful
forest. There is an inescapably
absurdist character to In the Fog, as
its characters doggedly tramp through the woods, evading the Germans as best
they can, despite the awkward circumstances that brought them together.
In the Fog is also closely akin to
Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows. Loznitsa’s adaptation of Vasil Bykov’s novel
hardly idolizes the Communist partisans.
Frankly, it suggests they are more interested in suspected turncoats
like Sushenya than taking the war to Germans.
Neither Sushenya nor Burov are Party people, so to speak. Voitek is not exactly a true believer either,
but his craven nature is more compatible with his fellow comrades. Indeed, during Sushenya’s flashback, one of
his railroad co-workers observes how their former Communist tormentor had so
quickly aligned himself with the new National Socialist occupiers.
Svirskiy looks profoundly miserable as Sushenya. It is a performance of striking physicality,
perfectly suited to Loznitsa’s taciturn film.
As Voitek, Sergei Kolesov also taps into just about every unedifying
aspect of human nature, without overplaying any of them. Even with his dramatic origin story,
Vladislav Abashin’s Burov remains something of a cipher, but Vlad Ivanov (the
abortionist in 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days)
casts a long shadow over the film as the deceitful German officer, Grossmeier.
Yes, once night breaks, there will be plenty of
fog to represent to moral murkiness facing the film’s characters. There will be no heroics in the wartime USSR,
no matter who holds Sushenya’s village.
Loznitsa offers viewers little consolation and his purposeful pacing
will be problematic for antsy viewers. Yet,
his long tracking shots are quite striking (especially the opening hanging
sequence). Impressively bracing, In the Fog is recommended rather highly
for adult attention spans when it opens this Friday (6/14) in New York at the
Labels: Russian Cinema, Sergei Loznitsa, WWII Cinema