The Ascent

The Ascent ★★★★★

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.

Is it legal to say this film has assaulted and exposed its audience as much as possible? It's rebuke and strips us down to the core. The Ascent has questioned our own principle and what kind of humans we are. The one that remains loyal by upholding our own principles and persevere to its end or the one that'd do anything to survive from the snares of death? We'll never know which type we are until we are faced with the condition to choose between life and death. In this such condition, we'll only gain survival by betrayal.

Such a soul-crushing, moral-awakening, thought-provoking, and multilayered spiritual viewing experience. The raw depiction of the horror and cruelty of war gripped the audience, making us almost as devastated as Rybak and Sotnikov. The Ascent begins with its gripping opening, showing us the endangered condition of a group of Belarus citizens who hide from the Germans. Large-scale civilians would hide in the thick of snow and run for their dear lives to the forest when they feel safe. They ran out of food supplies and sent these inexperienced soldiers to search for some livestock. Here, our two soldiers are facing the possibility of death when they are on this perilous journey. And they both react oppositely.

Not only showing the danger from the Nazis' side but Shepitko also shows us the danger from the extreme weather of Belarus in the first act. With the close-up shots, she captures the devastating faces of the civilians along with their frozen eyelashes, brows, and mustaches from the cold. The second act is slightly boring, but it redeems itself immediately with a powerful ending. The focus starts to span over the exploration of the theme of political beliefs as well as religions.

It evoked Christian symbolism in the last sequence, particularly when Sotnikovs' expression and gesture drastically change in the cellar with the dramatic lighting, making him almost seem divine. Sotnikov--who is an injured and more inexperienced soldier than Rybak--decided to take all the blame when they're all accused of the death of one German soldier. While Rybak, on the other hand, is breaking under pressure and desperate to survive by begging to join the police. The scene where the detainee was paraded up to the hill was like the ascending of Christ to the Golgotha Hill. When Rybak supports Sotnikov up to the hill, it's almost equivalent to when Simon from Cyrene supported Christ shouldering His cross. The symbolism behind the film is remarkable and very well thought. It's amazed me so much.

"No. Not Ivanov. My name’s Sotnikov. Commander, Red Army. Born in 1917. Bolshevik. A Party member since 1935. Teacher by profession. At the start of the war, I commanded a battery. It’s a shame I didn’t kill more of you bastards. My name is Sotnikov – Boris Andreevich. I have a father, a mother, and a motherland."

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