Come and See (1985) IMDb


Unrelenting, uncomprehending descent into psychologically invasive genocidal brutality. Arty high-budget war film.


A Belarusian boy digs up an abandoned rifle to join Soviet partisans in his home province. The year is 1943. However, the might of the Nazis is greater than he thinks. While he is left behind by the veterans of his unit, villages are being erased. Einsatzgruppe carry out atrocities in a dreamlike, drunken state of psychosis. The boy stumbles through hell, losing his mind at the heart of a war that could go on forever, or end the world. What would it take to eradicate the eradicators?


Titled after the Christian Revelation (ca. 95 CE) 6:1: “I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures saying, with voice like thunder, Come and see.” Its director retired after making it, apparently feeling that he had exhausted the possibilities of the medium.

The opening and some of the makeup is weak. The protagonist’s Butou-like facial contortions look much better without it. Brilliantly unhinged images of that gigantic Stanford prison experiment called war, though the film is ultimately ambiguous about the generality of what it shows. The Soviets are portrayed as much less bestial than the Nazis; no wonder, since it is their land. The concluding reverse montage, which I heard about from an awesome high school history teacher who showed “Der Fuehrer’s Face” (1942), doesn’t really bring the focus back to where it belongs: the effects of war, be it under Hitler or Stalin. Instead, it proceeds in the direction of theodicy, apparently posing the question “Would killing Hitler as a child have prevented this, and would it have been as bad?” The audiovisual implementation is top notch, but the question is ludicrous.

References here: The Winter War (1989), Ida (2013).

fiction moving picture