Film / Come and See

"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."
Revelation 6:1-8, shown in the titles

Come and See (Russian: Idi i Smotri) is a 1985 Russian war drama about World War II that won several awards. Since it was made in the Soviet Union, it's not as famous in America as it deserves to be.

We follow Flyora, an adolescent Belarusian villager, on a grim journey set in 1943. He dreams of joining the Soviet partisan resistance, and one day he finds a rifle buried on the beach near his village. As the war continues, the partisans come around and collect him from his home, much to the dismay of his mother. Flyora's dreams are shattered when he's branded "the new kid" and forced to do odd jobs—and worst of all, he's left behind as a reserve when the partisans march off to battle. But then he is befriended by Glasha, an attractive young peasant girl who is sleeping with the partisan leader. They form a friendship, but the peaceful tranquility is broken by a German bombing attack that leaves him temporarily deaf. Flyora and Glasha manage to return to his home village, but they find it strangely deserted...

It's a rare anti-war film without many actual war scenes, but it shows the darkest horrors of war. If any movie isn't saying Do Not Do This Cool Thing, this one is it.

The movie is sometimes called Kill Hitler, due to its most famous scene (and, indeed, that was its original, pre-censorship title). Roger Ebert has added it to his Great Movies list.

This movie provides examples of:

  • As the Good Book Says: The title of the film comes from Revelation, chapter 6, where the phrase is repeated by the Four Living Creatures when the first four of the Seven Seals are opened and the horsemen of the Apocalypse released.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • The film begins with Florya as a gung-ho volunteer, eager to fight the invading Germans. As the film progresses, we follow Florya's transformation as he experiences the horrific realities of war.
    • Also, in the last scene, when the Russian collaborator asks for a match, he is actually yelling "Fire!". The partisans oblige his request.
    • When the partisans come to Florya's village to recruit him, they are disguised as German soldiers, and the villagers greet them with food. Likewise, when the Einsatzgruppe arrives in Perekhody later in the film, the inhabitants welcome them as liberators, believing that they will take them to Germany.
  • Brown Note: Infrasonics and low-frequency sounds were used during the more disturbing scenes.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: See the page quote.
  • Completely Different Title: In French, the movie was initially released under the title Viens et Vois, with is a faithful translation of the original one. During the 2000s, it has been retitled Requiem pour un Massacre ("Requiem for a Slaughter").
  • Crapsack World: Eastern Europe during WW2.
  • Creepy Child: Some of Flyora's behavior and mannerisms at the beginning of the movie seem unnatural if not somewhat eerie. As the film progresses and Flyora witnesses atrocity after atrocity, he begins to rapidly age. By the end of the movie, his hair has turned grey and he looks disheveled and grotesque.
  • Dirty Coward: The SS-Sturmbannfuhrer and Gezhel the collaborator both beg shamelessly for their lives. Averted by the fanatical SS-Obersturmfuhrer, who contemptuously tells his executioners that they are subhuman and have no right to live.
  • Doomed Hometown: Flyora's home village, where his mother and sisters are killed. Glasha sees the corpses but never tells him about it, and he insists that they've gone to a nearby island. The illusion doesn't last long. There are indeed survivors on the island, but Flyora's family isn't there.
  • Downer Ending: Flyora, now a thoroughly shell-shocked husk of his former self, blends into a crowd of his fellow partisans, marching off to fight another battle.
  • Dumb Struck: The traumatized blond girl after being gang-raped by the soldiers wanders around in a catatonic state and blowing a pan flute left by the Germans.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The fat German who guffaws with laughter when he's done roasting the poor civilians with his flamethrower. The uniformed Nazi girl who smiles lasciviously and slowly eats lobster while watching the horrific massacre also counts.
  • Fake Nationality: Kosach and Rubezh are both played by Lithuanian actors. The Sturmbannfuhrer and Obersturmfuhrer are played by a Latvian and Estonian, respectively.
  • Foreshadowing: When Florya looks down into the well in his hometown, we get a quick shot of his reflection in the water, and his hair is clipped short.
  • Fridge Logic: When the villagers in Perekhody are herded into the church, the German officer tells them that they can come out as long as they leave their children behind; nobody stops Florya when he climbs out a window. Likewise, when one of the partisans yells at the 'new kid' to hurry up at the end of the film, it is revealed that he is addressing a new recruit, not Florya. This reinforces the film's portrayal of Florya's accelerated evolution from carefree adolescent to battle-hardened soldier.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: At the end of the film, the surviving partisans readily give in to brutality and are prepared to burn the captured Nazis alive. Even Florya hands them a tank of gasoline without hesitation. This is subverted at the last second when they machine gun the captives instead. The final montage of historical footage shows that, unlike the Germans, Florya would not stoop to killing children, even one that would grow up to be Hitler.
  • The Holocaust: An unusual example, in that it focuses on the Nazis' mass murder campaign against Slavs during the invasion of the USSR. As the end title informs us:
    "628 Byelorussian villages were burnt to the ground, along with their inhabitants."
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The title itself is a reference to the Horsemen's arrival. During the movie, there's no lack of scenes dealing with illness, violence, hunger and, obviously, death.
  • Ironic Echo: When Flyora sees the gang-raped girl (which bear's a striking resemblance to Glasha), he repeats Glasha's line ("To love, have babies...") with their meaning now horribly subverted since she is a catatonic vegetable.
  • Kill 'em All: The village inhabitants.
    • Indeed, of all the characters introduced during the course of the film, very few survive to the conclusion.
  • La Résistance: The Belarusian partisans, led by a Red Army veteran who Glasha is sleeping with.
  • Les Collaborateurs: There's one of these in the village of Perekhody. The Nazi-collaborator is treated with entirely appropriate contempt by his German masters, and we see the soldiers pantsing him and scrawling big swastikas on his helmet.
  • Magic Realism: Several sequences are implausible and downright surreal, and intentionally so.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Glasha. Some critics have theorized that she doesn't exist at all except in Flyora's imagination.
  • Mind Screw: By the end of this movie, the viewers are likely to feel like this.
    • Special mention to the final and most famous scene. Flyora finds a framed photo of Adolf Hitler in the mud, and shoots it. Each time he shoots, there's a Back to Front montage that regresses in time, showing the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany as a backwards newsreel—corpses at an extermination camp; Hitler congratulating a boy; Nazis burning piles of books; 1930s Nazi party rallies; Hitler as a soldier in WW1; Hitler as a young schoolboy—and finally a photo of the baby Adolf on his mother's lap. Flyora doesn't shoot at the last one.
      • In the commentary, the director said he wanted the audience to ask themselves: "Would I kill Hitler as a baby?"
  • Misplaced Wildlife: A weird example, since it's done intentionally. Such as a stork wandering around in a forest.
  • No Ending: In the end Flyora falls in with the rest of the partisans and disappears amid their ranks.
  • Obliviously Evil: The SS-Sturmbannfuhrer sincerely sees himself as an innocent victim of La Résistance.
  • The Ophelia: Glasha manages to switch from pretty but unsettling to merely creepy.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Flyora and Glasha sinking in the swamp. Which then turns into a lake.
  • Pet the Dog: Subverted by the SS-Sturmbannfuhrer. He has a pet loris, but that doesn't make him less monstrous.
  • Psychological Horror: The movie uses sound and disturbing imagery to create an unsettling atmosphere.
  • Rape as Drama: Happens to the mother who was dragged away from the barn at the end.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The MO of the Nazis.
  • Sadistic Choice: When the Nazis herd the poor Belarusian villagers into their church and shut them in, the SS-Obersturmfuhrer then calmly gives the villagers a choice—climb out of the open window if you can, but leave your kids behind to die. Most of them answer only with stubborn silence and stay where they are. The church is burned down.
  • Sanity Slippage: Glasha seems to have already loose a bit and possibly Flyora himself.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Nazis let loose on the village church with phosphorus grenades, a volley of machine-gun fire, and finally with long-range flamethrowers. Then they exterminate the whole village. It's the only way to be sure.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Flyora gets one.
  • Villainous Valor: The blonde SS-Obersturmfuhrer shows no fear when held at gunpoint by the Partisans, and calmly tells them that they are an inferior race that has no right to exist.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Is it ever! Possibly a subversion, though, because surprisingly, for a film like this, there is not much actual violence shown onscreen. Instead we're shown the reactions to violence, the aftermath of violence, or it cuts away before the violent act takes place. In the interview the director jokes that if they would have put actual violence, the no one would have wanted to see such movie.
  • War Is Hell: So very much. What did you expect from a movie who quotes the Apocalypse in its title?