The Ascent (1977)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

Original title:  Voskhozhdeniye

USSR, 1977.  Trete Tvorcheskoe Obedinenie, Mosfilm.  Screenplay by , Larisa Shepitko, based on the novel Sotnikov by .  Cinematography by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by .  

A group of partisan soldiers struggle to survive the Russian cold during the Second World War. Two members of the group separate from their comrades and go looking for supplies when they spot a farm in the snow-covered wilderness, but are then unable to return when they are spotted by Germans and one of the two is wounded by gunfire. They take up refuge in the first home they come across, but when Nazis come looking for them they end up captured, along with the single mother of three who sheltered them, and taken to prison. Larisa Shepitko’s stunning masterpiece is a brutal, unflinching look at the harsh realities of war and the tragic consequences of self-preservation in a time of fear, but it isn’t all misery and heartbreak. There is lyricism in the sadness here, and pure poetry in the relationship between the two men at the heart of the story before cruelty drives a wedge between a human being and their soul. Watch it and be transported, particularly by the exceptional camerawork and masterful performances. Sadly, this was the great filmmaker’s final film before her tragic death in a car accident two years after it was released.

The Criterion Collection:  #1063

Berlin Film Festival Award:  Golden Bear


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