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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Come and See: what another generation saw

In the Telegraph’s valuable “Film-makers on film” series, Christopher Smith, the director of a new UK horror film, Severance (which has its North American debut at Toronto), admires Elem Klimov’s indispensable war masterpiece Come and See: “We all get scared of nightmares, but then there’s the euphoric moment when we wake up. Those up and down emotions are why I grew up loving horror films,” the director says. “Smith realises that the “gore-bores” raving about Severance on the internet might be a bit perplexed by his chosen film. Described by J G Ballard as the greatest war movie ever made, Come and See is a harrowing, monumental epic set during the Nazi invasion of Belarus… Klimov_51-087.jpg “I haven’t seen any of [Klimov’s four other films],” Smith says. “He’s not part of the canon and he’s not known outside Russia like Eisenstein or Tarkovsky. That’s why I’m so keen to get people to see this.” And for the best part of the following hour, he explains why at high speed. “It’s not one of those films where everyone’s on their way to a big battle, and it’s not about solving a mission… We have no idea where the narrative is flowing, and this free-form structure is how I think war would be. The madness of war is a cliché, but Come and See truly captures it.” … “Klimov also used live ammunition. In one sequence, the boy and girl are skipping through a forest, all in one long take, and real explosives start going off within 20ft of them…. ” As a film student, Smith wrote his dissertation on the Holocaust in fiction and says he’s obsessed with the Second World War.” One scene of Severance “involves a plane being shot out of the sky with a rocket launcher. “I was told by the financiers that it would make the film un-releasable in America. Well, we took Severance to Cannes and the Americans were the ones who were laughing the loudest there and who immediately signed up to buy it.”

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