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Film / Come and See

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"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 6:7-8, shown in the titles

Come and See (Russian: Иди и смотри, Idi i Smotri) is a 1985 Soviet war drama about World War II that won several awards. It is loosely based on the 1978 novel I Am From the Fiery Village by Ales Adamovich, who also co-wrote the screenplay. A joint Mosfilm-Belarusfilm production, as 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 he's then befriended by Glasha, an attractive young peasant girl who is sleeping with the partisan leader Kosach. 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 averts Do Not Do This Cool Thing, this is it.

The movie is sometimes called Kill Hitler, due to its most famous scene (and it was the movie's original title). Roger Ebert has added it to his Great Movies list. It was also added to The Criterion Collection; the home media release took place on June 30, 2020.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Child Soldiers left to fend for themselves, an army of mass-murderers and rapists goes to burn village after village because it's their intention to exterminate every single one of your people.
  • All for Nothing: The mission to steal a cow for the starving refugee camp. Literally everyone but Flyora gets killed on the way, including the cow, and Flyora gets captured by the Nazis.
  • All There in the Manual: Supplementary materials to the movie reveal that the Nazis in it are based on the Dirlewanger Brigade, which explains their Bloody Mummer-esque hamminess.
  • Ambigious Ending: Flyora's fate is left uncertain as he joins back with the partisans.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The invading German army is corrupted, even more morally depraved than the average Wehrmacht, and petty beyond any possible sanity. Their massacre of Perekhody has the atmosphere of a deranged carnival, as the soldiers get drunk and cavort about, setting fire to every building and raping every woman they get their hands on. It was based on the Dirlewanger Brigade, led by sadist Oskar Dirlewanger and composed mostly of temporarily released criminals, who disgusted even other SS units with their behavior.
  • 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 starts with Flyora as a gung-ho volunteer, eager to fight the invading Germans. As the film progresses, we follow Flyora's transformation as he experiences the horrific realities of war.
    • When the partisans come to Flyora'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, a few of the inhabitants welcome them as liberators, believing that they will take them to Germany.
    • The "Little Policeman" is the SS brigade's resident chew toy. He's mercilessly teased and bullied by the other soldiers, who rightly view him as an opportunist and an annoying try-hard. Despite this, he's constantly trying to suck up to them in an attempt to be seen as a respectable Aryan like them. He's mortified when he ends up joining them in front of the partisan firing squad at the end despite them not considering him a fellow Aryan.
    • In the last scene, when the Russian collaborator asks for a match, he is actually yelling "Fire!". The partisans oblige his request.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Roubej somewhat acts as one to Flyora.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Flyora has lost everything: his family, his innocence, and his sanity. But if you interpret that Flyora will survive to the end of the war, since the author wrote him based on his own experiences, then he may be able to rebuild his life. His refusal to kill baby Hitler proves he's managed to retain his humanity as well.
  • Boisterous Weakling: The SS soldiers revel in the cruelty they inflict on the Belarusian villagers, all the while mocking them for their supposed genetic inferiority. When they go up against Kosach's partisans rather than the scared, defenseless civilians they're used to terrorizing, they get slain to a man.
  • Bookends: Near the start of the film, the local partisans have an impromptu photo-shoot. Towards the end, the Germans have one as well, in what would become of the film's most iconic scenes.
  • Break the Cutie: Flyora may be one of the most comprehensive examples in cinema, going from a bright-eyed young boy eager to defend his country to a haunted, withered husk of a human being over the course of the film.
  • Breather Episode: Downplayed with Flyora and Roubej's scouting mission. It's still a tense sequence that sees two side characters blown apart by landmines, but contains more humor than anywhere else in the film.
  • Brown Note: Infrasonics and low-frequency sounds were used during the more disturbing scenes.
  • Child Soldiers: Flyora joins the partisans despite being in his early teens. Yeah, the partisans have that need for men.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Almost literally! In the very first scene of the film, Flyora digs up an SVT-40 rifle from the sand in preparation for joining the partisans and carries it with him for the rest of the film. He is continually denied opportunities to use it, until the very last scene where he unloads a full magazine into a portrait of Hitler, bringing the theme of the film full circle.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: A big part of why the film so thoroughly averts Do Not Do This Cool Thing; Flyora is a completely ordinary teenage boy who never does anything badass or even heroic. The best he can do under the circumstances is merely try to survive, which is true of the vast, vast majority of those forced to live through war.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The SS brigade that torches the village of Perekhody includes several Ukrainian and Russian collaborators. There's a particularly loud-mouthed and diminutive one among there ranks (referred to in the credits as the "Little Policeman") who the other Nazis treat with entirely appropriate contempt. We see them pantsing him, scrawling big swastikas on his helmet, and locking him in the church with the rest of the villagers (only letting him out after he screams in horror that "I'm one of you!"). This becomes an Ironic Echo at the end of the movie when the partisans are about to burn him alive with the other Nazis, wherein he rips off his stalhelm and shrieks "I'm on your side!"
  • Colonel Badass: Kosach, leader of the local partisans. Though he doesn't receive much screen-time, he's shown to be an unflappable and stalwart soldier.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: See the page quote.
  • Cool Old Guy: The old man from Perekhody who tries to protect Flyora from the Nazis by passing him off as a family member. He does this despite having caught Flyora attempting to steal his horse, perhaps because he can't bear the thought of leaving a young teenager out in the open at the mercy of the SS brigade.
  • Crapsack World: Byelorussia 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.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Nazis have a habit of burning people alive. First it happens to the old man from Flyora's village, and then it happens to the whole village of Perekhody.
  • Cruel Mercy:
    • Flyora is spared from being shot in the head after the Nazis use him for a photo opportunity. But given what he had just recently witnessed, death would've been a welcome relief.
    • Three Nazis carry out a bed with an elderly grandmother on it and mockingly request her to be a breeder and have lots of kids after setting it down. They did this not only because they know she's completely harmless and can't do anything about them but also because her advanced age makes her mostly unfit for birthing and likely to pass away before such an impossible task can even be started. It's also very likely that her children and grandchildren were among those incinerated in the church.
  • Deconstruction: This movie is one big sledgehammer to the ideal of resistance. Flyora isn't a brave hero, but a scared kid trying to survive in a hellish warzone. The only vaguely heroic thing Flyora does is balk at the idea of killing Hitler as an infant.
  • Defiant to the End: In stark contrast to his superior, the fanatical SS-Obersturmfuhrer doesn't do anything to try and convince the partisans who have captured him to spare his life. Quite the opposite, he indulges in an Ax-Crazy monologue about how his captors are an inferior race who must be exterminated to prevent the spread the disease of Communism. However, this is used to demonstrate how monstrous he is .
  • Did Not Get the Girl: While there's some budding attraction between Flyora and Glasha, it should go without saying that the traumas inflicted on them both put an end to any idea of romance.
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Germans kill almost every man, woman, and child in Perekhody because a villager had insulted a German soldier earlier that morning.
  • 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.
  • Drone of Dread: And not just from the actual score. Various diegetic sounds such as airplane engines and the ringing in Flyora's ears from an explosion are used for this effect as well.
  • 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.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: When Flyora leads Glasha back to his mother's house, the first sign that something terrible has happened is that his twin sisters' dolls are scattered across the floor.
  • The Enemy Weapons Are Better: The partisan who comes to recruit Flyora is carrying around entirely German gear, presumably captured in the field. It causes a minor Jump Scare when he taps on the window and the viewer thinks he's a Nazi at first. Later on, some of the native SS collaborators are shown wielding Soviet weaponry.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first appearance by the SS soldiers is when Flyora sees them jumping out of a truck in the distance while ominously half-concealed by the morning fog. The fact that they're black silhouettes emerging from the mist gives them an appropriately demonic presence, like they're the legions of hell emerging from the underworld.
  • 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.
  • Evil Old Folks: The SS commander is an old man. When he's captured, he tries to pass himself off as a harmless grandpa with no control over his men, much to the disgust of everyone in earshot.
  • Failed a Spot Check: When his village appears to be deserted, Flyora thinks they must be hiding on a nearby island and runs off to find them, straight past the bodies of the villagers which are piled behind a house.
  • Final Solution: 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."
  • Foreshadowing: When Flyora looks down into the well in his hometown, we get a quick shot of his reflection in the water. His hair is clipped short.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: One SS soldier wipes away tears as he guns down the women and children of Perekhody. Another is shown vomiting after the massacre - although that may just be because he's drunk.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Despite being a safe source of Nightmare Fuel, the director made a point of not showing gratuitous violence as most war films do, saying that if he did no one would bear to look at it. The atmosphere and plot make the real nightmare.
  • Harmful to Minors: The horrible experiences during the war take their toll on Flyora.
  • Hate Sink: Of all of the SS soldiers, the blonde Obersturmfuhrer is the most utterly sick and repulsive. When the people are rounded up to be burned in the church, he smugly announces that they either die themselves or sacrifice their children. Before his execution, he defiantly states that the massacre was justified and that sub-humans don't deserve to exist.
  • Hats Off to the Dead: One of the Belarusian prisoners tries to do this by taking off his hat as the women and children of Perekhody are burning before him, but an SS soldier replaces it with his own helmet to mock him and, by extension, the dying villagers.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Gezhel (the native collaborator who translates for the Obersturmfuhrer) tries to pull off an extremely insincere one these when he and the other SS soldiers are about to be executed. He pleads with the partisans that he's not a German and that the culpability for the massacre lies with all the other SS troops except him. He jumps at the opportunity to douse his comrades with kerosene in the hopes that he'll be spared, but the partisans see through his sweat-soaked desperation and kill him anyways.
    • The Little Policeman also tries to do this once it becomes clear what the partisans intend to do him. Even though he'd previously strained himself to get in close with the Germans (even yelling "I'm one of you!" when he was locked in the barn by the soldiers), he does a complete 180 and pleads with the partisans that he's on their side.
  • Heroes' Frontier Step: Flyora spends much of the story becoming a horribly disheveled wretch who endures one tragedy after another. The next-to-last shot of the film shows him balking at killing baby Hitler, showing that while Flyora lost his innocence, he still retained his humanity.
  • Heroic BSoD: Flyora basically spends the majority of the film going through one of these.
  • 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 Flyora hands them a tank of gasoline without hesitation. This is subverted at the last second when they machine gun them instead. The final montage of historical footage shows that, unlike the Germans, Flyora would not stoop to killing children, even one that would grow up to be Hitler.
  • 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.
  • I Have a Family: When captured by the partisans, the SS-Sturmbannfuhrer tries this excuse, along with Nothing Personal, to escape punishment. It doesn't work.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Flyora badly wants to be a war hero, which is why he disobeys his mother's advice and joins the partisans.
  • Ironic Echo: When Flyora sees the gang-raped girl (which bears 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.
  • Jump Scare: The muted tone of most of the film gives the occasional mine explosion this effect.
  • Karmic Death: The SS brigade that burned Perekhody is massacred shortly afterwards in an ambush by Kosach's partisans, and their leaders are executed via machine gun fire underneath a railroad bridge.
  • Kill 'Em All: The village inhabitants.
    • Indeed, of all the characters introduced during the course of the film, very few survive to the conclusion.
  • 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 two.
      • 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.
  • New Meat: Flyora is just a kid who's never fired a rifle before in his life, and so Kosach assigns him to nonessential tasks like scrubbing cooking pots. Flyora is frustrated and hurt by this because he wants to fight the Germans so badly.
  • No Ending: In the end, Flyora falls in with the rest of the partisans and disappears amid their ranks.
  • The Napoleon: The "Little Policeman" character is the shortest of all the native SS collaborators. He's also very loud and boastful about his hatred for non-Aryans, which is probably a feeble attempt to ingratiate himself to the other soldiers (who rightly view him as a contemptuous little weasel).
  • Obliviously Evil: The SS-Sturmbannfuhrer sincerely sees himself as an innocent victim of La Résistance.
  • Ominous Fog: The most horrific part of a pretty horrifying movie comes a little more than halfway through when the SS rolls into a village on a misty morning thickly bound with fog.
  • The Ophelia: Glasha manages to switch from pretty but unsettling to merely creepy.
  • Orchestral Bombing: The film uses Mozart to this effect at several points, such as shortly before the Perekhody massacre.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: When Flyora tries to reach his mother and sister once again, he finds out his village has been burned down and now he has to provide for himself for good.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Narrowly averted. After the partisans capture the SS commanders, Kosach orders them to be burned alive where they stand, but the assembled partisans simply machine gun them to death instead.
  • Pet the Dog: Subverted by the SS-Sturmbannfuhrer. He has a pet loris, but that doesn't make him less monstrous.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Flyora barely affects the plot, instead being bounced from one traumatic event to another as he tries merely to survive the horrors of World War II.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Big surprise here, but the Nazis. Midway through the film, a bomber plane drops leaflets encouraging local Slavs to rise up against the "Bolshevik kikes", and later a captured SS-Obersturmfuhrer goes on an unhinged rant about how some races have no right to exist.
  • Psychological Horror: The movie uses sound and disturbing imagery to create an unsettling atmosphere.
  • Psycho Supporter: Even compared to the other native SS collaborators, the "Little Policeman" character is especially gleeful about reveling in the slaughter of Perekhody's villagers.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Flyora and Glasha sinking in the swamp. Which then turns into a lake.
  • 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.
  • "Ray of Hope" 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. However, the patriotic music then swells at this point, indicating that the invaders will eventually be driven back. His refusal to kill baby Hitler shows that while he has lost his innocence, he has retained his humanity.
  • La Résistance: The Belarusian partisans, led by a Red Army veteran who Glasha is sleeping with.
  • 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: Flyora and Glasha are both driven to the brink of madness by their experiences.
  • Scenery Gorn: The result of having War Is Hell depicted through burnt-down villages, mass killings in the woods, creepy swamps and suddenly bombing from the peaceful blue sky.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: By the middle of the movie, twelve-year-old Flyora is one himself.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: One of the longest examples in cinema history, after Flyora is caught in a German artillery bombardment.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Glasha for Kosach.
  • Sole Survivor: Flyora repeatedly finds himself in this situation; first for his village, then for the scouting mission, then for Perekhody.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Used in several scenes, such as when the Nazis blast fun ragtime music as they rape, torture, and murder the people of Perekhody.
  • The Squadette: A number of female partisans are visible throughout the film, although none have lines.
  • Stuka Scream: Played straight during the bombing run on the partisan camp. Subverted in a later instance where we hear the distinctive sound of a bomb falling, causing Roubej and Flyora to dive for cover, only for the "bomb" to be an empty whiskey bottle that the German pilot tossed out the window.
  • Surreal Horror: Despite being actually a war film and avoiding to show the most gruesome scenes, it managed to being classified as one of the most horrific films ever for its surrealistic and nightmarish atmosphere in depicting the horror of war. It even got ranked #76 in the Time Out 100 Best Horror Films.
  • 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. Apparently, It's the Only Way to Be Sure.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Implied through some of the film's more surreal touches, like the Misplaced Wildlife.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Downplayed with Flyora, as he becomes understandably more sullen and hostile over the course of the film, at one point even attempting to rob an innocent farmer at gunpoint. Despite this, though, he never uses his gun on another human being and ends the film with some of his humanity intact.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: During the introductory scene of the "Little Policeman" character (when he grabs Flyora's face and throws him to the ground), it's shown very briefly that his forearms are covered in what look like prison tattoos. This implies that he was a criminal of some description who joined the Waffen-SS for opportunistic reasons, not unlike many of the ex-convict collaborators who aided the Dirlewanger brigade in real life.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Flyora gets one when he finds the refugee camp. Coming shortly after the deaths of his whole family, it truly cements that Flyora's innocence is gone forever.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After he finishes translating the Obersturmfuhrer's psychotic rant, Gezhel starts panicking when it becomes clear that the partisans have no intention of sparing him despite his tearful pleas that he's not a German. Even though those weren't his words, the fact that he willingly took orders from the Obersturmfuhrer (despite being one of the "subhumans" the Obersturmfuhrer says doesn't deserve to exist) is more than enough to seal his fate.
  • Villainous Valor: A thoroughly unsympathetic case. The blonde SS-Obersturmfuhrer shows no fear when held at gunpoint by the Partisans, expresses disgust for his commander's cowardice, and uses his last breaths to furiously inform his captors that they are an inferior race that has no right to exist. Rather than making him a badass, the intention is more to show him as a rabid dog well beyond any possibility of redemption.
  • 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 an interview the director jokes that if they had shown actual violence, then no one would have wanted to see such a movie.
  • War Is Hell: So very much. What did you expect from a movie that quotes the Apocalypse in its title?
  • Wham Shot: When Flyora and Glasha begin running away from the village to find his family and the village's residents, Glasha looks back, and sees a pile of the residents' corpses stacked at the wall of a house.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We don't actually see Glasha at all after Flyora leaves the refugee camp. While a girl that looks like her is seen staggering away from the Perekhody massacre after being brutally gang-raped by the Nazis, it is implied that this is a hallucination of Flyora's.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The SS go out of their way to murder children, even telling the villagers of Perekhody that they can leave the church unharmed as long as they leave their children behind. When a mother escapes through the window with her young son, they proceed to toss the son back inside and then drag the mother off to be gang-raped. When they are later ambushed, the blonde SS-Obersturmfuhrer proudly proclaims that he targets children because "It's with children that it all begins".
    • Flyora averts this in one of the movie's most iconic scenes. He starts shooting a picture of Adolf Hitler, and each time he shoots, a cut shows the life of Hitler in reverse until it shows him as a baby. Flyora hesitates and decides to not shoot it.


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