Sunday, 26 May 2024 07:22

An anti-war movie of compassion and kindness: a review of 'The Invasion' by Sergei Loznitsa

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An anti-war movie of compassion and kindness: a review of 'The Invasion' by Sergei Loznitsa
Image courtesy of Atoms and Void

Sometimes, documentaries work better than fiction. This is certainly the case with Sergei Loznitsa’s new film, The Invasion. Loznista was born in Belarus, grew up in Ukraine, and studied film in St. Petersburg. He has been an almost constant presence for the last twenty year at the Cannes Festival bringing both documentaries and fiction features. The Invasion is a documentary filmed over the two years since the beginning of the conflict.

It starts with a tragic prologue: the funeral of four soldiers killed in war. A church crowded with mourners, the impact of war immediately vivid. Loznista then follows the daily life of Ukrainians trying to find food and water. Unexploded mines render some places dangerous, but life must go on. A couple is getting married; the bride wears the traditional white traditional dress while the groom is in combat fatigues. A lady tells the story of her husband, a soldier now a prisoner of war in Russia. Slowly a portrait is drawn of a people who will not accept defeat. They are desperate but will do anything to stand against its enemy.

Loznista tours the country like an invisible ghost, witnessing tragic stories, many people dying, many trying to cope with the trauma of war. At school children sing loudly nationalistic songs: “We will devote our body and soul to our freedom we are brother of Cossack people”. The teacher goes around the school with the bell (used usually to announce lunch breaks) as an air raid alarm. A building near the school gets destroyed, someone emerges from the ruins. We see the wounded in hospital. The explosions “look like we are back in 1942,” a woman says. The last bombardment it is at the school, no children are left, only a dog is there, provoking overwhelming emotions of compassion.

IN 2012 Loznitsa brought the WWII drama In the Fog to Cannes, an anti-war movie. His position has not changed – in The Invasion he continues to show the folly of war. Despite focusing on the Ukrainian side, the film does not have a propagandistic or nationalist tone. Loznitsa adopts a level of observation and reflection that brings the conflict outside its border. It could be a conflict everywhere in the world, where the consequences are clear for ordinary people – we do not see politicians, journalists, or any other official figures. It raises questions but does not provide answers.

At the end of the film, we see another funeral, but the list of victims is much longer, a Ukraine song is the last thing that remains. This is an urgent, beautiful movie about the irrationality of war and the Ukraine people’s situation, which transports the audience with integrity and kindness.

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