dir: Valentyn Vasyanovych
Such a sad, strange, serious film... about something that hasn’t happened yet.
I mean, the conflict this alludes to definitely happened. Russian forces pretending to be Ukrainian separatists took over whole swathes of Crimea and what’s called the Donbas region, and around 13,000 people have been killed since 2014, which is a lot of people.
A lot of people. The conceit of this flick is that the ‘conflict’ was worse, and went for way longer, and the dead are at peace, but the living are the walking wounded.
The entire film consists of 28 sequences or shots. Most of the time the camera is static, sitting in one place, unmoving.
The film opens with just such a static shot: overhead, thermal imagery, of someone digging a grave. Someone else is dragged to the hole, beaten brutally and then buried. We see the whole thing from go to whoa. It’s not a pleasant way to start things.
We don’t know if it’s a Russian soldier or paramilitary, or Ukrainian, but it doesn’t matter, in the sense that whoever it’s happening to, it’s pretty horrible, whatever their ethnicity or identity.
Set in 2025, two veterans of the conflict, Sergey and Ivan (Adriy Rymaruk & Vasyl Antoniak) are not living their best lives. The two chaps set up metal targets in the snow and, for fun(?) shoot at the targets while screaming abuse at each other and making it difficult for each other to fulfil challenges set by the other. After many minutes of this, after taking things a bit far, Ivan shoots Sergey in the chest, laying him out.
They’re both wearing bulletproof vests, but it’s still not how friends should treat friends. Both of them are clearly not in a good place mentally, though we’re never told or shown as to why. It’s not some specific event – it’s just the accumulation of what happened, all the horrors of war, that don’t end just because there’s a ceasefire.
On top of that, these veterans are not well regarded by their fellow Ukrainians. They blame these soldiers either for the war itself, the fact that they fought for so long with nothing to show for it, or that it’s their fault they didn’t win.
The place where they work, a foundry, is so bleak it looked literally like something out of Nineteen Eighty Four, as in the film version from the 1980s. If shit wasn’t bad enough at the foundry, where the other workers hate them, they also get a heartwarming lecture from the foreman as to how they’ll be closing now thanks to their American owners, thanks for all your hard work you bloody peasants - no there won’t be severance cheques.