Serhiy (Roman Lutskyi), a Ukrainian surgeon captured by Russian soldiers at the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian war, is subjected to witnessing the inhumane treatments of fellow Ukrainian captives while serving as medic for the Russian military. Upon release, Serhiy must put together the pieces of his now shattered life and learn how to cope with the horrors that he has seen.
Writer and director Valentyn Vasyanovych crafts an intimate exploration of fear and recovery through the eyes of our fairly silent protagonist, Serhiy. From the very beginning to the very end, the viewer is with Serhiy as an omnipotent observer, forced to watch each trial with no way of turning away. Together wiith Lutskyi, Vasyanovych forces the reflection introduced by the name of the film.
While the long, drawn out shots do their job to give this film a beautiful and melancholic atmosphere, (truly, some of the shot compositions are breathtaking), they often last for an excruciating amount of time, for no apparent reason. Add this to the still frame cinematography and a lot of the film leaves you begging to move on to the next scene purely due to feeling like you are wasting your time. This left the few and far between scenes of movement a breath of fresh air when they appear. All that being said, I understand that this was a creative choice to make the connection between Serhiy and the audience deeper as you are forced to see, and sometimes feel, what Serhiy does. Some more inventive editing or diverse scenes could have gone a long way though.
At the end of the day, Vasyanovych does create a beautifully raw view into the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War and its affects on those who are involved with it. While the cinematography is striking and intimate, it leaves a yearning for much needed pacing that would benefit the film as a whole. Outside of this one critique, the film features a phenomenal lead actor who helps truly depict the affects of war on us all.
Reviewed on September 12, 2021 – La Biennale di Venezia (screener provided by publicist). Rating: TBC. Running time: 125 min.
PRODUCTION: A New Europe Film Sales distribution of a ForeFilms film. Producers: Oleksii Karpenko, Iya Myslytska, Anna Sobolevska, Valentyn Vasyanovych, and Vladimir Yatsenko.
CREW: Director/Writor: Valentyn Vasyanovych. Editing: Valentyn Vasyanovych. Cinematography: Valentyn Vasyanovych.
CAST: Roman Lutskyi, Stanislav Aseyev, Nadiya Levchenko, Nika Myslytska, Andriy Rymaruk, and Igor Shulha.