Shepitko’s emotionally overwhelming final film won the Golden Bear at the 1977 Berlin Film Festival and has been hailed around the world as the finest Soviet film of its decade. Set during World War II’s darkest days, The Ascent follows the path of two peasant soldiers, cut off from their troop, who trudge through the snowy backwoods of Belarus seeking refuge among villagers. Their harrowing trek leads them on a journey of betrayal, heroism, and ultimate transcendence. —The Criterion Collection
After studying in the workshop of Dovchenko and Romm, Shepitko graduated from VGIK in 1963. After an impressive diploma work (Heat) she directed Wings, a complex character study that eschewed cliche to depict the emotional gap that develops between a proud, professional woman and her estranged daughter. Though praised by critics, Wings received only a limited release by Soviet authorities. Her next project was a short film for the omnibus Beginning of an Unknown Era called “Homeland of Electricity”. Produced by Mosfilm’s ill-fated Experimental Studio, it was shelved by censors and wasn’t released until after Shepitko’s death. The high point of her career came with Ascent, which won the Golden Bear at Venice in 1977. After dying in a tragic accident in 1979, her final project, Farewell, was completed by her husband, Elem Klimov, using her script. —Seagull Films
It feels like ages since I saw such beautiful images, crisp and mist in one, and wonderfully drawn in a desolate white landscape. I keep thinking back a the simple yet in its flexibility so complex structure of the film, at the energy it finds in depicting conscience and humanity as if they were a couple dancing.
Set in perhaps the bleakest wintry landscape in the history of cinema, this is a harrowing, haunting, and heart-wrenching exploration of war, impending death, and the meaning of conscience. Stunningly powerful and overwhelmingly intense experience--left me speechless.
“The Ascent” is one of the few films, along with perhaps Lean’s 1948 version of “Oliver Twist” and Bergman’s “Persona” which could be described as “perfect”. By that I mean that it is a film where… read review