In the Fog (V Tumane)

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Director: Sergei Loznitsa Cast: Vladimir Svirskiy, Vladislav Abashin, Sergei Kolesove Genre: Drama Country of Origin: Russia 2012 Co-Winner FIPRESCI International Federation of Film Critics Award Cannes 2012 Language: Russian with English subtitles Rating:****

'A hand held camera single shot slowly and methodically presents a stunning opening scene - a raised railway line in the background, handcuffed civilians, collaborationist militia in black uniforms, bleached skeletons piled onto a cart and uniformed Germans testing a row of gallows'.

It's 1942, the Russian Western frontier and the local partisans are fighting a brutal resistance campaign against the occupying German forces. A train is derailed and Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy), a local rail worker is arrested for sabotage with a group of partisans, interrogated and freed. The others are hanged. Rumours of his suspected Nazi collaboration spread and Sushenya aware of his situation awaits death.

Sushenya's executioners, Burov (Vladislav Abashin) and Voitik (Sergei Kolesove) take him into the forest to dig his own grave but an ambush leaves Burov wounded and the cowardly Voitik runs into the forest. Sustenya remains, tends to Burov's wounds and literally carries him to safety.

The story is related as three flashbacks which explore Sushenya, Burov and Voitik's personalities and how they became caught up in this drama.

'In the Fog' is based on the novel by the revered Belarussian author,Vasil Bykov, who fought in the Red Army in World war II and is about fate and free will. The unfortunate Sushenya unable to prove his innocence, resigned to his fate, awaiting his death is faced with a moral dilemma when his executioner is wounded. It's a meditation on man's moral place and the search for human good in the catastrophe of war - it's a Russian tragedy.

The film is very low key, slow and austere with sparse dialogue and told in a very straight forward manner. It won't have universal appeal but it's rewarding and remarkable piece of cinema.

There's no music. The sound track is the haunting natural sounds of the forest and cinematographer, Oleg Mutu's long takes reveal in masterly form a visually hypnotic panorama of the forest at night, solitary farm houses and frozen fields in subdued colours which presents a rich background canvas.