"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."
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 Florya, an adolescent Belorussian 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. Florya'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. Florya 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 Eberthas added it to his Great Movies list.
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.
Brown Note: Infrasonics and low-frequency sounds were used during the more disturbing scenes.
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").
Creepy Child: Some of Florya's behavior and mannerisms at the beginning of the movie seem unnatural if not somewhat eerie. As the film progresses and Florya 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.
Doomed Hometown: Florya'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 Florya's family isn't there.
Downer Ending: Florya, now a thoroughly shell-shocked husk of his former self, blends into a crowd of his fellow partisans, marching off to fight another battle.
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.
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 Florya sees the Glasha again, he repeats her earlier lines ("I want to love...") with their meaning now horribly subverted. She is now a catatonic vegetable.
La Résistance: The Belorussian 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 Florya'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. Florya 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. Florya 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.
Sadistic Choice: When the Nazis herd the poor Belorussian villagers into their church and shut them in, the SS Sturmbannfuhrer 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.
Villainous Valor: The SS Sturmbannfuhrer 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.