In the Fog Reviews
Being on somewhat unfamiliar cinematic ground, "In the Fog" gets off to a promising start. But that's before the movie spends most of its running time chasing its tail, instead of spinning a compelling and suspenseful story. That just goes to prove that the time and place for a philosophical discussion is not a war zone.
Such description hints that it requires patience, and indeed it does, but it rewards highly to those willing to listen, and to "see the film between the lines", if we could invent such a phrase to reference the act of reading a book attentively. Slowly showing events with a cinematography mostly consisting in long, unedited shots that create an admirable sense of realism, time passing and danger, In the Fog consolidates Russia's top spot and king status in constructing beautiful introspective and humanist anti-war cinematic letters since the 50s until the 70s during the USSR days, until they acquired a more brutally realistic tone in the 80s.
TINY SPOILERS AHEAD ABOUT THE FILM'S STRUCTURE, NOT REVEALING ANYTHING ABOUT THE PLOT
The most surprising unexpected characteristic of In the Fog is that it slowly reveals its intentions, showing events first and explaining them later, arriving to a point where a sudden turn of events changes the film's storytelling structure completely: it becomes a roller-coaster, taking the backgrounds of three different characters, each with their own agendas and personal troubles, and telling them separately, until arriving once again to the present. This puts the pieces back together and allows to tie loose ends.
END OF STRUCTURE SPOILERS
That structure allows for the plot to become meaningful as it unfolds, all of this while an invigorating camera work takes us from scenery to scenery, just like in the old film days of the Soviets: the swamps, the forests, the snowy fields, the battlefields, the houses, the fog... All of these, along with the very slow pace, become natural landscapes dissonant with the atrocities of war. In the meantime, thought-provoking discussions between characters reunited by strange circumstances of fate unravel about the trascendence of death, about the burden soldiers carry with respect to the perception that their fellow countrymen have towards them, about the strength to live despite an evident lack of reasons to keep moving forward, and, just like the plot summary properly describes, the capacity of the human condition to opt for the "morally correct" in the context of "immoral" - more properly, catastrophic - circumstances. Very recommended.
Otherwise -- excellent.
That being said, I think there's something to be admired in a film so disinterested in any sort of payoffs. Loznitsa opens "In the Fog" with one of many exquisitely excruciating long takes, following a row of P.O.W.'s during WWII being lead to their deaths by hanging, before finally settling the camera's gaze away from the action as we hear necks break against nooses and the movie bumps up the title card. It's wound with a suitably grim fuse, as "Fog" jumps gracefully out of narrative order to give us glimpses into the lives of a rail worker (Vladimir Svirskiy) and two soviet officers (Vladislav Abashin and Sergei Kolesov) preceding and succeeding the means to this gruesome ultimatum.
Taking visual cues from the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky, Alexander Sokurov and even Romania's Cristian Mungiu, it's hard not to be impressed by the shear aesthetic ambition of Loznitsa's sophomore feature. "In the Fog" may be hard to love, but it's equally tough to shake. (77/100)
It wasn't an easy task to adapt Vasil' Bykaw's short story. Everything is happening in 1942 on the territory of Belarus occupied by the German army. The Germans face strong resistance from the Partisans and hatred of most of the local people, but there are people who work with the Germans, because there were tough choices to make. Sushenya is a track-walker arrested and then suddenly released after three of his co-workers were hanged for blowing up a German train. Two Partisans, one of them his close friend have an order to capture Sushenya and lead him to the forest where they have to shoot him as a traitor... but life has different plans!
I haven't enjoyed such complex acting from the main characters for a long time. Vladimir Svirskiy as Sushenya, Vladislav Abashin as Burov and Sergei Kolesov as Voitik have three completely different characters and you could almost feel the way they think - they were working perfectly with each other to bring the feel of chemistry which is necessary for movies like this to feel real. And this one did!
If you are a fan of an intense, slow-burning and haunting drama, pick this one.