Opening 15 Nov 2012
This Russian film (original title V tumane) quietly and slowly delivers a moral message without any irritating music, unnecessary action, or in-your-face 3D. In 1942 the Germans occupy the western border of the USSR; active partisans hold the German troops under constant stress and observation. Then a group of guerrillas is captured and executed – all except one man: Sushenya (Vladimir Svirski). His fellow villagers are at loss to understand why Sushnya was spared and declare that he must be a snitch and a traitor. Two fellow Russians, Burow and Voitik, will complete the work left undone by the Germans. They visit him at home; words are not necessary because Sushenya knows why they have come. He takes leave of his wife, who much more aggrieved than he is and, carrying a spade, Sushenya follows on foot while the two men ride horses. He innocently suggests that they go deeper into the woods. Unexpectedly, snipers wound one man and scare the other away so that Sushenya, unharmed, carries his wounded and would-be executioner through the woods searching for help. This proceeds naturally, very slowly and the forest seems to take on a personality of its own – a kind of fourth character. In spite of the peaceful atmosphere which hovers protectively over a tense situation, we are never bored. In flashbacks we learn more about each of the three men: their situation, personality, as well as other atrocities which have happened. Without doubt Sushenya is the most morally pure man and does the right thing up to the end.
No unnecessary music interrupts the story, just story-related sounds such as dogs barking or rifles clicking. We left the cinema in silence, impressed by such a powerful film, based on a book by Vassily Bykow, and, although it is set in World War II, it could happen any time where members of the human race are involved. The international film critics (FIPESCI) rated In the Fog best film in Cannes, 2012. Director Sergei Loznitsa, just 48 years old, already has an impressive biography as a scientist, translator of Japanese, and maker of documentary films (11 so far). This is his second feature film, after My Joy which also won prizes. (Becky Tan)