sSince the start of the Donbas War in 2014, Valentin Vasyanovich’s fifth feature film, Reflection, fits terribly with the current mood, somber and sophisticated compared to previous films about conflict such as the Donbass by Sergei Loznitsa and Roman Bondarchuk. volcano. It consists of largely stationary dashboard shots, many with windows, windshields, and other sections, suggesting both the singular realism of the conflict that takes place near civilized life and the elusive redemption wrought by the film’s characters is sought.
The first window is covered in colored spots at the birthday party of Polina (Nika Myslitska, daughter of Vasyanovich), the child of Serhiy (Roman Lutsky), the Ukrainian surgeon. It’s a hilarious nod to the far-reaching war that Serhiy discusses with Andrey (Andrei Remaruk), the current partner of his ex-wife Olha (Nadya Levchenko). But as the two men advance to the front, they find a Russian checkpoint and are arrested. After being tortured with fists and electrodes, Serhiy is forced to help brutalize other Ukrainians – including Andrei – by checking their vital signs to see if they are still alive.
These scenes, which include one of the few camera moves in Reflection, where I am being dumped into the bowels of the outpost, plunge us into a horrific abyss. Serhii contemplates suicide in his cell, helps load the bodies into a crematorium on the back of a truck called Russian Humanitarian Aid, and ends up in a terrible predicament concerning Andrey. Vasyanovych’s unrelenting style is the cinematic equivalent of eyes wide open, giving his film the kind of unrelenting horror of Come and See.
Arguably the tabloid method weighs down the reflection a bit in the second half as Serhiy adjusts to urban life, but Vasyanovych lets in some metaphysical light. While Sarhi reconnects with his daughter, a pigeon is killed when it crashes into his apartment window. The ghost spot you leave, like a soul imprint, instantly symbolizes the disappearing Andre, the difficulty of being forgotten, the state of grace that may still exist in the world. Reflection is eerily ambiguous in its storytelling, even with tightly controlled formalities, a shaky cry for Ukraine and a quiet declaration that there is still hope.