Quick-Thoughts: Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent (1977)

Proceeding the 1978 Berlin International Film Festival, Shepitko described in an interview that the reason for her wanting to make a film set during World War II was because she saw its thematic substance applicable to what she sought out of the modern climate of Soviet culture: 

“Each time period brings certain issues to the surface, and the question of heroism in today’s times is perhaps just as burning an issue now as it was in a time of war”. 

She looks at the Soviet Union’s success during World War II and their defeat of Germany, and how that brawn seems necessary now as it was back then. During, however, the modern era where incredible advancements were being made technologically and medically but controlled exclusively by more powerful forces, she questions the “spirituality” of her people, and how looking backwards may influence it. 

The Ascent (1977) is a film that primarily challenges the decisions that are made by two main characters. Both Russian partisans, Rybak and Sotnikov, find themselves traveling through snow to look for food, but are later on caught by German soldiers. What’s so prominent about their harsh journey though is the exchanges of bravery and cowardice that they make, and the almost complete reversal of personalities that are then melded into their dynamic by the time we reach the halfway point.

Verdict: A-

“The Ascent” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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