Jarringly, yet somehow like a somnambulist, half awake, reality a haze, politics in cinema can stab deepest when it is most blunted and blurred at the edges. Uncertainty can be as powerful as the heavy, clear hand of postman-films, ones delivering messages. The political object here is the Lithuanian-Soviet production No One Wanted to Die (Vitautas Zalakiavichus, 1966), playing in IFFR’s Red Westerns retrospective—a partisan crypto-Western, pitched to the audience as remarkable for finally acknowledging, in it its post-WWII rural village setting, the existence of anti-Soviet national rebels. But forget the distracting image politics of provocatively point-counting inclusive gestures—all praise where it is due in the history, but the idea of the simple act of recording something as scoring a kind of “point” for representation is to reduce cinema to nothing but a historically official document, a bibliographic note. Art is more nuanced than that. What struck me about this film was that within this context of the revelation of partisans was the utter flatness of the ideology and passion of the story, how cooly dulled were the forces driving everyone. For all the thirst for vengeance of the family of Soviet brothers united by the partisan murder of their father, and for all the tenacious terrorism of the Lithuanian nationalists lurking within the fog and the shifting population, we are given no reason to justify, rationalize, or even emotionalize the beliefs of either side in the standoff. No On Wanted to Die exhibits that disconcerting quality produced in a highly censored, highly ideological national cinema, where so much is politically at stake that the filmmaker opts for vagueness without context rather than risk being clear and offending someone. The result here is that the film drains the ideology from its violent rural schism until there is nothing but a void filled with sneaky violence and gaseous motivations—think Tourneur. In this void nothing seems worth fighting for except in acknowledgement that the world both sides are living in is as-yet unformed—no one reigns here yet, neither Soviets nor Lithuanian nationalists—and the hint (or hope?) that continual violence may form it. That’s not something anyone can award any kind of point to, but is more likely closer to the truth of bloody, personalized human conflict, a murky truth without sharp edges but murderously existant.