In The Fog (2012)

April 14th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

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Director:  Sergei Loznitsa

Script: Sergei Loznitsa, Vasili Bykov (novel)

Producer: Heino Deckert

Cast: Vladimir Svirskiy, Vladislav Abashin, Sergei Kolesov, Nikita Peremotovs, Yuliya Peresild, Kirill Petrov, Dimitrijs Kolosovs, Stepans Bogdanovs, Dimitry Bykovskiy, Vlad Ivanov

Ger, Rus, Neth, Bela, Lat       127mins         2012   War Drama

‘The Fog of War’ is a phrase coined in 1837 by Prussian Carl von Clausewitz, encapsulating the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced during conflict, be it confidence in capability, in operations, in strategy, in the campaign as a whole, or in the enemy’s strength or weakness.

It can work at any level, from the soldier on the ground all the way up to chaps in charge in the War Office, where intelligence and counter-intelligence only serve to muddle the issue, to the point where the decision maker in question feels paralysed and unable to make a choice, in case it’s the wrong one, the stakes being so high.

Director Loznitsa has made far more documentaries than fiction; his only previous drama outing being the much-lauded 2010 title ‘My Joy’, which was nominated for the Cannes Palme D’Or and winning top prizes at three other film festivals the same year.

Here, the year is 1942 and Belarus lies under a German occupation showing no sign of weakening. Civilians face a stark choice; either survive in the woods as a freedom fighter, or fold under as a Policeman or crafsman in the job you had before the war, only now working towards German objectives.

Into this pressurised environment of fear and mistrust, where your lifelong neighbour or even family member will sell you out to save their own skin, Loznitsa introduces the epitome of moral rectitude in the shape of Sushenya, in the knowledge that, in a time of war, virtue fast becomes that rarest of beasts, hunted to the verge of extinction in the opening salvo.

Vladimir Svirskiy is excellent as the epitome of unimpeachable courage and unfettered righteousness in the face of impossible odds, where everyone else has a price at which they bail out and all others are judged by that standard, not on their own merits.

In The Fog, running a shade long at over two hours, is nevertheless a fascinating and very real examination of the mechanism that so easily falls into place when a culture is placed under extreme duress and starvation is only a week away. The veneer is soon stripped away and we see what people are made of.

It would be wrong of me to go into the details of what has transpired, as the story unfolds out of chronology and much of the interest is driven by wanting to know what has happened to create the situation the characters find themselves in.

Suffice it to say it is engrossing and believable at every turn; one is made to accept the importance of a single potato, rag and sound in the woods. When life is stripped down to this basic level, it’s no wonder that any of the more elevated qualities of humanity are quickly discarded against the more practical concerns of immediate survival; morals seen as an extravagance no one can any longer afford. One is certainly a member of the masses when one chooses cowardice and compliance above and beyond what may be right and wrong. Andrew Rajan


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