UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

Film Captures Effects of War

The black-and-white film “The Ascent” portrays the Russo-German conflict through the story of a captured partisan who escaped the Nazis only to fall into the hands of a Russian interrogator. The second film in the William Joiner Center Spring Film Series 2004, it was shown last Wednesday, March 3, in the Media Auditorium, lower level of the Healey Library.

Set in the blistering winds and snow of occupied Byelorussia of 1942, two Russians, Sotnikov and Rybak, are cut off from their platoon and seek refuge from the cold Soviet landscape in a woman’s cottage. Soon after finding shelter, all three are captured by the Nazis and tortured, an ordeal only two survive.

There is virtually no dialogue in the beginning of the film, the only sound is that of gusting winds as Sotnikov and Rybak struggle through knee-deep snow in a blinding storm, which is enough to convey the men’s fear on its own.

Real conversation comes after the capture, when Sotnikov and Rybak come into conflict as one ascends to heroic status while his fellow becomes an agent of the German-controlled local police.

“The Ascent” is a compelling account of the Russian peoples’ encounter with the Nazis during WWII. It powerfully conveys the environment of paranoia, fear, self-doubt, and self-conflict which prevailed during the conflict as well as the traumatic impact the war would have on future generations, which came out toward the end of the film in an extremely moving execution scene.

But the struggle for survival in a hostile physical environment also brings out two positives strengthened by conflict: friendship and patriotism.

Larisa Shepitko, who directed the film in 1976, was one of the few major female directors in Soviet filmmaking. Born in Kiev in1939, Shepitko went to study direction at the State Institute for Cinematography in Moscow in 1958. Shepitko was married to another prominent figure of Soviet cinema, Elim Klimov, and died shortly before the completion of his film “Farewell,” which she was originally supposed to direct.

“The Ascent” received the Golden Bear for best film at the 1976 Berlin Film Festival. Catch the next film in The William Joiner Spring Film Series, “The Battle of Algiers” on March 24 at 2:30pm, Media Auditorium, Healey Library, lower level.