The ascent

Belarus,World War II. As the German army advances on the Russian front, two Russian partisans go into a forest to ensure supplies for a battalion.

A major figure of Soviet cinema, Larissa Chepitko (Wings) directed a grandiose film, that starts like a William Wellman (Bastogne) war movie and little by little turns into an allegory on honor, survival and redemption. A masterpiece of Russian cinema, that had to contend with soviet censorship, and won the Golden Bear in Berlin. Tragically deceased during the preparation of her next film, Chepitko leaves behind one of the most beautiful films ever made by Soviet cinema.

Philippe Grandrieux

I only saw this movie once. I was dazzled. Tears came to my eyes when the bells rang at the very end. I couldn't hold them back. Something gave in and I cried like a child. I staggered out of the theater. The snow charged sky lit men's dark path with its exhausted glow. Their brutal and confused actions, their all driving fear, imposed the images, unless it was the other way round, that it was precisely the images that had made this uncertain world possible, in which men, the duration of a movie, struggling against death, choosing abjection or courage, were our kin. If this man, hauled to his death in a cart across the great plains of Belarus,  seems carried away, it's because his face is upside down in the scenery, while the sky, the river and the snow fields fade away, dripping from his head, in the tremors of a hazy dream. This peculiar image, wanted, desired, welcomed by Larissa Chepitko more than anything else, takes this man, wrapped in his heavy coat, towards his fate. Thus inside us, the time of a film, one image after another, what we do not know is assembled. This is where cinema stands. Through the sentient world it projects before our eyes, it lets us feel our own darkness. Then we can in turn, otherwise, elsewhere, be the one who is carried away, and in the returning light, stand up streaming in tears.

Voskhozhdeniye. 1977. Black and white. 111mn. Original version with French subtitles. USSR. Drama.
Direction: Larissa Chepitko. Production: Willie Geller. Screenplay: Yuri Klepikov, Larissa Chepitko. Editing: Valeriya Belova. Photography: Vladimir Chukhnov, Pavel Lebeshev. Music by: Alfred Schnittke. With: Boris Plotnikov, Vladimir Gostyukhin, Sergei Yakovlev, Lyudmila Polyakova.
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