Where would we be without the Nazis? They're such obliging moral targets, so beyond the pale of ordinary human consideration, that we can batter them around with impunity and still feel good about ourselves. No muss, no fuss, the perfect tomato-can adversary. Director Elem Klimov, onetime head of the Soviet Filmmakers Union, gets a lot of mileage out of this coarse imbalance, and the result is a film longer on outrage than complex understanding. This 1985 story of a Belorussian youth whose village is destroyed by a band of Nazi savages (even Erich von Stroheim's commandant in Lewis Milestone's The North Star seems more recognizably human than his bestial counterpart here) was commissioned by the Soviet government to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Allies' victory over Hitler. Some commemoration. I suppose that never forgetting has its place, but not when it insists on such narrowly righteous fantasies of revenge. In Russian with subtitles.
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