Belarusian director Sergei Loznitsa first came to prominence through his formalist, patient documentaries, but on making the switch to narrative fiction with the harrowing My Joy he created a nightmarish, free-flowing mosaic of modern Russia (and its former republics) as a lawless place where anything can happen and, often, does. That surreal, narrative free-flowing structure mirrored many of his contemporaries' satirical, surrealistic looks at post-Perestroika society; in In the Fog, it gives way to a more traditionally narrative but no less surreal tale, as Mr. Loznitsa adapts writer Vasil Bykov's novel about an episode of WWII anti-Nazi resistance.

     Shot with the director's usual attention to camerawork and staging, with yet another stunning job from cinematographer Oleg Mutu, making excellent use of locations whose symbolic value is undeniable, Mr. Loznitsa yet agains explores the tragic fatalism that is so often connected to the Slavic character, highlighting the bitter ironies of war as a seemingly permanent mindset through the past hundred years. While the narrative itself is nominally linear, the director sets it in shuffled blocks that share each a unity of time, assembled as flashbacks that slowly fill in the blanks behind the central event: anti-Nazi resistant Burov (Vlad Abashin) picks up railroad worker Sushenya (Vladimir Svirsky), suspected of having sold out his fellow workers to the Nazi authorities for an act of sabotage.

     But the trek towards Sushenya's execution is full of obstacles, and, as Mr. Loznitsa is nothing if not a constantly questioning director, it becomes a moral journey for both men and for the third member of the party, the opportunistic, unscrupulous Voitik (Sergei Kolesov). All find themselves caught in the butterfly effect of decisions often made in light of each man's moral fibre, or lack of such, asking themselves what is the right way to act in a world that is seemingly so bereft of any sort of compass. Unfolding patiently but deliberately, In the Fog is a film that proves Mr. Loznitsa's masterful control of formal and narrative elements. Even if its "war-is-hell" theme may bring little that is new, the director is a mesmerizingly talented filmmaker and his growing confidence with the narrative format suggests that there is still a lot more to be expected from him in the future.

Cast: Vladimir Svirsky, Vlad Abashin, Sergei Kolesov, Yulia Peresild
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Screenplay: Mr. Loznitsa, from the novel by Vasil Bykov, V Tumane
Cinematography: Oleg Mutu (colour, widescreen)
Designer: Kirill Shuvalov
Costumes: Dorota Roqueplo
Editor: Danielius Kokanauskis
Producer: Heino Deckert (Majade Fiction, GP Kinokompaniya, Rija Films, Lemming Film, Belarusfilm, ZDF/ARTE)
Germany/Russia/Latvia/Netherlands/Belarus, 2012, 127 minutes

Screened: distributor advance screener DVD, Lisbon, July 20th 2013


Popular Posts