• Sebastian Mann

Come and See (1985) Review

A woman and man looking at the sky
Credit: Sovexportfilm

Soviet filmmaker Elem Klimov’s 1985 film, Come and See, is no less an astonishingly brutal masterpiece four decades later.

Come and See is a film of true horror. It’s bleak and almost unbearable, but profoundly rewarding. It’s a vital examination of the extents of human cruelty and resilience, and a testament to the transcendental power of cinema.

Based on the 1978 book, I Am From the Fiery Village, Klimov’s final film tells the gruelling history of the Nazi occupation of Belarus. Set in 1943, the year of the massacre at Khatyn, we follow the young Florya (Aleksey Kravchenko), a 14-year-old boy from a small village.

With the help of a friend, and against the wishes of the village elder, he uncovers a rifle buried on a beach and soon joins the partisans, local resistance fighters who are suffering against the seldom-seen Wehrmacht.

It’s impossible to overstate just how deeply impactful Come and See is

There is little in the way of a traditional narrative. Over the course of a few days, Florya navigates the war-torn countryside before ending up in the village of Perekhody, the scene of the film’s unforgettably harrowing climax.

Like the young Florya, we are confronted by the unspeakable evil of the fascist war-machine, forced to bear witness to undeniable reality.

Watching Come and See is like being trapped in a waking nightmare. The score drones like a subterranean piece of machinery, as Aleksei Rodionov’s Steadicam cinematography tightly captures survivors’ anguished faces in uncomfortable close-ups.

The film’s greatest strength is Kravchenko, whose piercing stare captures without words the incomprehensible acts of man before him.

It’s impossible to overstate just how deeply impactful Come and See is. Nothing is as pure in its apocalyptic horror, nor so authentic in its formal style. It is a peerless piece of filmmaking and it remains one of the greatest films, of any genre, ever made.


Come and See is playing as part of the Liberation75 festival.