“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, "Come and see!" And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
Come and See, directed by Elem Klimov, is an anti-war film that depicts Nazi Germany’s occupation of Belarus with striking realism. The film follows a teenage boy named Flyora as he is conscripted into the hopeless Belarusian resistance against his mother’s wishes. What Flyora thought would be a glorious rebellion against the Nazis is quickly turned into Hell on earth as he witnesses the atrocities of Nazi Germany firsthand. The magnitude of violence and needless human suffering swells steadily as the film marches on until it peaks with one of the most barbaric climactic sequences I have ever witnessed. Come and See juxtaposes the brutal realism of human warfare with surreal scenes of song and dance that seem to mock the madness that one must adopt in order to comfortably war with one another.
Come and See depicts war in its uncomfortable reality.The average war film usually glorifies war itself with sprawling battle scenes and super soldier action heroes who take on waves of enemies single handedly; while ignoring the consequences of war like massive civilian casualties and the lifelong trauma many veterans suffer from. A film like Top Gun: Maverick comes to mind which is essentially pro-war propaganda for the US military. War becomes an exciting spectacle with explosive dogfights and heroic pilots who all miraculously make it home after a job well done. Films like these essentially try to make armed conflict amusing. In contrast, Come and See masterfully guides us through what war truly is. The deafening boom of bombs dropping overhead, the roaring flames of a barn set ablaze with hundreds of innocents trapped inside, and the bloodied faces of children who’s lives will never be the same. A cruel kind of violence which cannot be justified.
There is something to be said about a film that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. For days I could not get the images out of my head. Seeing Flyora whipped around like a dog, photographed with a Luger pressed against his temple for the amusement of his torturers had me questioning the validity of every war film I had ever seen.
628 Belarusian villages were razed to the ground along with their inhabitants. Many of them never to be rebuilt. Come and See displays the genocidal acts of Nazi Germany for what they were. Crimes against humanity. Although not a film for the faint of heart, Come and See is a film for those who wish to see war in its cruel reality.