Wri/Dir: Ben Parker | Cast: Harriet Walter, Tom Felton, Charlotte Vega, Barry Ward, Bill Milner, Dan Renton Skinner, Niall Murphy | UK Drama 95′
Christmas Day 1992 and the Red Flag has fallen with Gorbachev’s resignation bringing an end to seventy years of Communist rule in Russia. Anna Marshall (Harriet Walter) is watching the BBC News from the comfort of her country home in a domestic vignette that bookends this ambitious historical drama from English director Ben Parker.
But when her dog Gulliver is let out for a nighttime sniff he gets a nasty surprise in the shape of a masked intruder demanding retribution for the past. Anna is a feisty and highly intelligent Jewish bird, and a one time officer in the Russian army, who refuses to be taken for a ride by the foul-mouthed Nazi sympathiser Lukasz (Felton). And after chaining him to the fireplace she launches into her version of what really happened when she was Brana Vasileva, one of an elite group of Soviet soldiers tasked with taking Hitler’s remains back to Stalin’s Moscow, as proof of his death. Many theories have circulated about what became of the Nazi leader’s body after he committed suicide. Ben Walker’s narrative offers one plausible suggestion.
The story then transports us back to rural post war Germany (actually Estonia) where Charlotte Vega takes up the role of Vasileva (aka Anna Marshall as her younger self). Shortly after setting off on their mission the group heads into deep forests and comes under attack from what appears to be a pack of werewolves carrying a load that suggests there are some supernatural powers at work in this remote bosky backwater. It soon emerges they are actually German ‘Wehrwolf’ partisans, using guerrilla tactics and hallucinogenic gas to disorientate their enemies. In a bid to keep their leader’s secret buried forever, the Germans go hell for leather in a bloody and brutal fight against the Russian contingent doing anything in their power to thwart the Soviet mission of returning the Nazi’s leader’s remains to Russia.
Burial is written and directed by Ben Parker whose feature debut The Chamber garnered critical acclaim back in 2016. This latest, an ambitious and lavishly styled historical drama, really comes alive in the brilliant camerawork of Estonian DoP Rein Kotov who often works from an aerial perspective suggestive of prey being tracked by an unknown force of some kind. All credit to Parker for his ingenious idea and for casting an indomitable Harriet Walter to play the feisty Soviet veteran, her counterpart Vega having a difficult act to follow as the younger heroine, leading a cast that also fails to distinguish itself on this occasion. So despite some tense and brutal action set pieces the rest of the feature doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the opening, but Burial is nevertheless a watchable take on a mystery that has haunted many in the intervening years since the fall of Nazism and its arch villain Hitler. As a footnote, whoever did the subtitles should be taken out and shot at dawn: Bolsheviks is translated as ‘Bastards’ and Berlin, ‘Violin’. Fortunately these are autogenerated by Vimeo, but certainly do a disservice to the aurally challenged.
BURIAL PREMIERES AT FRIGHTFEST 2022 | On digital from 26th from 101 Films. On Sky, iTunes and Amazon from 12th September 2022