Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
Potentially one of the 50 best war films in human history.
Japan and Roberto Rossellini were two of the three parties around the world that reached an unprecedented level of humanism in war-themed manifestos. The third party was the Soviet Union. This classification in no way intends to diminish the many facets of war and its overwhelming power at transforming the human soul. On the contrary, my statement is aimed specifically towards humanism war testaments. If the situation forced us to narrow down Japan to one single filmmaker, then the colossal The Human Condition (1959-1961) would pop out from a sea of masterpieces, and Kobayashi would reign supreme. This is, of course, not official, but only my humble point of view.
But here lies the thing: Kobayashi required more than 10 hours. Rossellini required three films, which add up to exactly 5.1 hours, and his most representative humanist war masterpiece is Paisà (1946), which was even split into several parts for covering distinct facets of the human soul.
Larisa Shepitko, wife of Elem Klimov (Come and See ), one of the most talented women that has ever worked in the film industry, only required one film. Two hours was all she needed. The result is gigantic, scratching my equally unofficial Top 141 list (as it is currently), and holds its place in my book as the second best Soviet humanism war film after Ballad of a Soldier (1959).
As it is my tradition to list things, the same thing shall happen here, in order for an easier dissection of the overpowering amount of themes that the film covers.
What could have remained as a simple story of survival quickly escalates into a growingly complex, multilayered and thought-provoking analysis of the human condition. Wtih this ambitious intention behind, it is necessary for the two partisan protagonists to be put in different circumstances and several menacing scenarios with the purpose of removing, one by one, all layers found covering the soul with a brutal honesty. Still, one of the most beautiful aspects of humanity that God placed in our nature is that good can arise in the middle of evil. In that sense, we discover:
- Moral principles
- Human empathy
- Appreciation for life
thanks to the origination, or infliction, of:
- Suicide attempts
- A suffocating, continuous imminence of death
- A guilty conscience probably meant to be cursed eternally
The film feels human, smells human, looks human, hurts human, scares human, menaces human, assaults human... It moves the soul, awakens morality, rushes the blood and puts the right side of the brain to work. It is a ride completely unpredictable in its course, leaving in the viewer an everlasting cacophony of intertwined feelings, including psychological horror.