Lee’s review published on Letterboxd:
Words do truly fail me here, but I’ll give it a go. Ever since I found out about The Ascent, I’ve been itching to watch it, but could never find it anywhere. Criterion have finally put it out on blu-ray and I’m glad I’ve got to see it in its best form. Going into this, I had unrealistic expectations as I couldn’t help myself in hoping it could somewhat equal the majesty and trauma of Klimov’s Come And See, which is the most miserable and traumatic experience film I’ve ever witnessed. It comes close.
The Ascent, directed by Klimov’s wife Larisa Shepikho, is a remarkable film and one that I can’t help but admire. So much here is harrowing in the sense of how far Shepitkho is willing to go to portray the torment of war and the destruction of humanity. It doesn’t quite showcase this through physical violence that much, but the horror here is the context and the isolation built throughout.
Shot in devastating black and white, the harshness hits even harder. The treachery of its snowy landscape as we hear each footprint, the search for food, the fear of capture…. Everything is just unrelenting to the point where it's exhausting. The way Shepitkho utilises close-ups is absolutely stunning and away from The Passion of Joan of Arc, I struggle to think of a film that does it better.
Everything about The Ascent is just extraordinary and the more I think about it the more I’m inclined to say it’s one of the most remarkable films I’ve ever witnessed. Shepitkho has made something that is truly eternal.