The Ascent

The Ascent ★★★★★

Beautifully shot in monochrome with locations to match, from the whites of the winter landscapes covered in deep snow to the almost blackness of dark cellars, The Ascent is an incredibly well-made war narrative concerning extreme fear and great bravery. This sadly proved to be the final film from director Larisa Shepitko and based on a Vasil Bykaŭ’s novel entitled Sotniko, initially published in nineteen seventy.

It contains a carefully considered sound design that heightens laborious breathing of soldiers and amplifies the intense crunching noise of snow underfoot and paints a picture of extraordinary miserableness. Yet, it still manages to find a visual elegance in the land of snow-covered forests near the historic city of Vladimir Oblast. There are elements of surrealism weaved throughout the intricacies of the film, and what commences as the battle against the climate evolves to be a crusade with conscience together with inflexions on Christianity. It's crowded with disturbing images and harsh close-ups of character’s faces as they assess and evaluate their situations, and is an extraordinary study of fearfulness and desperation which deservedly won the Golden Bear award at the 27th Berlin International Film Festival.