In the Fog (2012)
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Suchenya, the main protagonist, is confronted with choices that no one will ever want to make but, along with other characters in the film, is forced to make them. The story is not so much the consequences of those decisions that determine the characters' fate but the unexpected events that unfold as a result of those decisions.
This is an slow moving but thoughtful film about impossible choices some of us are forced to make that profoundly shape our futures.
The scene where Suchenya's interrogator waves to him would have to be one of the cruelest waves ever seen in a movie.
I thought the acting was a bit too understated to really take full advantage of the long takes. You would think a bleak situation like this would bring out some passion or emotion from someone for a moment at least. It's hard to say if the actors delivered the lines really well or not because I don't speak Russian. I'm sure native speakers can really pick up on tones and other smaller things and get more out of the movie. It was also unclear at times who was speaking in some scenes because everyone was talking in that same monotone voice. I had a bit of a problem with the pacing because the movie jumps many months very suddenly from fall to winter with flashbacks and so on, it took a while for me to figure that out.
The movie did highlight many interesting things about the randomness of war and the moral complexities of occupation. There should've been more discussions in the film though, I'm sure it couldn't have been that hard to come up with some topics relating to the dire situations of the main characters for them to talk about. I also appreciated the efforts the movie made towards being authentic, I really believed it was the 1940s again. The actors wear cloth wraps instead of socks for example so there's really nothing anachronistic there to take you out of the movie. It's a decent movie all in all but not a masterpiece or anything.
The movie is veeeeeeeeeeeeeery slow. Yes, no action and not much dialog, it's all about the visuals telling the story, some ability that Hollywood seems to be lacking along the years. Thank God we can always count with European cinema. In the Fog (V Tumane) is a very strong, bitter and moving portrait about the 1942 USSR and the conflicts concerning the bellic race. It's one of the most poetic and moving anti-bellic movies I've ever seen.
The photography is simply amazing, portraying the agonizing situation of the main protagonist that goes on a road trip with only one purpose: dying. As the very visual story progresses you see the pain that each character is going through, you witness the horrors of those conflicts in a slow-paced agonizing and self-contained fashion. You start to get sensitive with each characters journeys and disillusions as we go deeper into their stories. And when the fog finally comes to makes us "witness" the final resolution... you start realizing how deep the decisions and the speech about life x death can sink us if we let the memory lane carry us throughout whichever path you choose.
It's a mesmerizing and visually stunning experience, thought-provoking and very elegant that you just can't miss.
Set in World War Two when the invading Germans occupied Belarus, then part of the USSR, the film's title refers to the fog of war, in which participants only see the part never the whole. It also refers to the moral fog of war, whether to collaborate with the new masters or resist with the old. This is the dilemma confronting Sushenya who opts for the pacifist solution - and suffers for it.
Indeed the film is an account of his 'via crucis'. It immediately brought to mind Prince Myshkin in Dostoyevsky's 'The Idiot' (Sushenya constantly being called an idiot) but more pertinent is the recollection of the donkey Balthasar in Bresson's 'Au Hasard Balthasar'. Balthasar is the intelligent but mute witness to the sufferings of humanity around him, and a victim too. Indeed Sushenya's insistence on trying to carry the wounded Burov on his back to safety makes of him, like Balthasar, a beast of burden.
I would hesitate before concluding that the director, Sergei Loznitsa, is steeped in 'Au Hasard Balthasar', let alone all of Bresson's work (although the forest scenes certainly have their echo in Bresson's 'Mouchette', again perhaps more by coincidence than design) but there are strong Bressonian virtues in the film. 1) The flashback structure gives us effects before causes, a key narrative strategy of Bresson's; 2) the protagonists are closer to Bressonian 'models' than actors, since their faces are quite new to Western audiences and Loznitsa directs them to speak in a subdued manner; 3) no music to tell us what to feel! God (who invented music) be praised; 4) Loznitsa withholds judgement, presenting the story 'without ornaments' (as Bresson said of his 'A Man Escaped').
In the subtlest of ways, Loznitsa sketches Sushenya as a Christ figure. With his beard, his tousled hair and his long face, he seems to step out of an icon-painting. And at the end, sitting between Burov and Voitik, he is Christ flanked by the two thieves.
In The Fog is unlike any other war movie. It's based on a very interesting moral dilemma, and actually has a pretty good story to back that up. The cinematography and the atmosphere are also great. But it's so boring, that it almost hurt. And I don't mean by that, that it's slow, because it's not just that. There are a lot of scenes, where nothing happens. Literally minutes, when the camera is just tracking the characters walking or staring into nothing. I think half of the movie consists of walking through the woods. I feel sorry for this film, because it could have been even an all-time classic, but most of the time I was just bored to death.
The film is made up almost entirely of single-shot scenes, usually lasting several minutes each, with virtually no editing. Which means an almost complete absence of normal film grammar. If it takes someone 5 minutes to walk across the street, that's exactly what you'll see. Every. Damn. Step. If it takes someone 2 minutes to think of something to say, that's exactly what you'll see. In fact, you get a lot of that - 2 or 3 characters standing & staring in silence between brief lines of dialogue. For variety, they occasionally sit & stare.
Half the time, you're staring at the back of someone's head for minutes at a time or listening to someone speaking from off-screen. Because everything is shown from a single camera position and there's no editing. You'll see characters looking at something for a full minute before the film FINALLY shows you what they were looking at. My viewing experience went from intrigue to confusion to hope to impatience to annoyance and finally, a kind of infuriated boredom.
Imagine a novel that did something equivalent. Instead of "John crossed the street", you read 5 pages of "John took a step. And another step. And another step..." for five pages before finally reading "... and John entered the building."
The acting is no better. Virtually everyone speaks in a slow monotone, whether the situation is relaxed or tense. This is not the stoicism of characters trying to keep their emotions in check. No, they are just robotic. For the entire film.
I give this film 1 star because zero stars isn't allowed.