Reflection review – a shaken, horrifying outcry for Ukraine – and statement of hope | Film

Set at the start of the Donbas war in 2014, Valentyn Vasyanovych’s fifth feature, Reflection, chimes horribly with the current mood, grim and exacting as it is compared with previous, more ironic films about the conflict such as Sergei Loznitza’s Donbass and Roman Bondarchuk’s Volcano. It is composed in largely static tableau shots, many of them featuring windows, windscreens and other partitions, implying both the estranged unreality of the conflict taking place so close to civilised life, as well as an elusive redemption sought by the film’s characters.

The first window gets covered in multicoloured splatters at the paintballing birthday party of Polina (played by Nika Myslytska, Vasyanovych’s daughter), child of Serhiy (Roman Lutskyi), a Ukrainian surgeon. It’s a playful allusion to nearby warfare, which Serhiy discusses with Andriy (Andriy Rymaruk), the current partner of his ex-wife Olha (Nadia Levchenko). But when the two men head out to the frontline, they run into a Russian checkpoint and are captured. Serhiy is tortured by fists and electrodes, then forced to assist in the brutalisation of other Ukrainians – including Andriy – by checking their vital signs to see if they are still alive.

These scenes, which contain one of Reflection’s few bursts of camera movement as Serhiy is frogmarched into the bowels of the security outpost, thrust us into a harrowing abyss. Serhiy contemplates suicide in his cell, helps load corpses into an incinerator in the back of a truck marked “Russian humanitarian aid” and is finally forced into a terrible predicament regarding Andriy. Vasyanovych’s unwavering style is the cinematic equivalent of having your eyes prised open, which gives his film the kind of unrelenting horror of Come and See.

The tableau method arguably weighs Reflection down a little in its second half, as Serhiy adjusts to civilian life, but Vasyanovych lets some metaphysical light filter through. While Serhiy is reconnecting with his daughter, a pigeon is killed as it flies into his apartment window; the ghostly smear it leaves behind, like an imprint of a soul, symbolises all at once the missing Andriy, the difficulty of forgetting, and a state of grace that may still exist in the world. Hauntingly enigmatic in its storytelling, even with the highly controlled formalism, Reflection is both a shaken outcry for Ukraine and subdued declaration that hope still lies beyond.

Reflection is available on 2 June on the BFI Player.

Source link

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.