Monday 29 May 2017

Film Review: Come And See, 1986

A contemporary Russian theatrical release poster.

Phew... What a film! Not for the faint-hearted. To say I really enjoyed this film doesn't feel quite right. The story it depicts is, for the most part, appallingly awful.

Flyora's playmate...

... and the ominous eye in the sky.

And yet I did enjoy Come And See, as well as finding it a whole range of things: sometimes beautiful (the Ukrainian landscapes are often almost magically so), sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, traumatic even. There are moments of innocence, and even romance. Occasionally it even veers quite sharply towards the surreal. But the main theme is the all too real barbarism of war.

Aleksei Kravchenko as Flyora, an amazing performance.

Aleksei Kravchenko, the boy in the central role, was just 14, and not a professional actor, when the film was made. He turns in a stupendous performance. He's a pretty funny looking kid, and does quite a lot of gurning. But with more than adequate reason! Sometimes (admittedly not always) I like a film that really hits me hard, and really stays with me. Come And See did both. It's definitely got an axe to grind, and a very bloody one at that. But it never feels heavy-handed.

The sense of foreboding kicks in pretty early.

All things considered, and despite the surreal moments, it feels very real. Horribly and unflinchingly real. I'm someone who - it's hard to know how to put it - kind of loves war, inasmuch as I agree with Thomas Hardy that it makes for 'rattling good' reading/watching, whilst peace-time history could be considered, perhaps, as rather dull in comparison. This film, however, serves as a tonic reminder of how ugly, twisted and senseless human conflict can be. 

The main part of the film, telling the boy's story, is fantastic in itself. But the way the film ends adds an incredible coda, which I won't give away. My response to it all is as much visceral and emotional as considered or thoughtful; I just think it's brilliant. Both very beautiful and very ugly. And very brilliant. Both a real work of art, and also a message film of unrivalled power.

The role of nature, from the landscape to animals, is intriguing...

A moment of respite in a bucolic country idyll?

... probably not, in this film.

The film took a while to reach the Russian public: started in 1977, it only came out in 1986, having faced quite a lot of opposition from the political censorship side of the state managed Soviet film industry, as embodied in the The State Committee for Cinematography (Goskino). But when it finally came out, it really did reach its public, 28 million tickets being sold in Russia alone.

Florya meets Glasha when he joins the partisan band.

And together they have fun adventures...

Well, kind of...

Elem Klimov.

Director Elem Klimov himself has said: 'I understood that this would be a very brutal film and that it was unlikely that people would be able to watch it. I told this to my screenplay coauthor, the writer Ales Adamovich. But he replied: "Let them not watch it, then. This is something we must leave after us. As evidence of war, and as a plea for peace."'

Come And See is a slow-burner, initially, and is comfortable taking its time whenever necessary. Yet it's somehow nearly always quite intense. The film opens with scenes that almost feel simply like kids at play. Then Florya goes home, to his mother, and their rustic peasant hut. She berates him for his desire to join the partisans, who duly arrive to take him away.

Florya's goal is to join the Partisans, who are hiding in the forests.

These partisans, along with an attendant commissar type, themselves carry an air of menace, one of them being dressed like a German motorcycle policeman (see the pic higher up the post). On his arrival in the forest camp, Florya is overwhelmed by the whole ensemble, but finds some solace with Glasha, a beautiful girl, who teases him.

Things start to get pretty grim pretty soon: Glasha and Florya become separated from the other partisans, during an air attack on the forest camp. Florya's hearing is damaged by the bombing, and this is superbly conveyed by the film's soundtrack, which makes for a disturbing disorienting experience.

Not the homecoming Florya had hoped for.

After a series of misadventures, including a trip home that sets the tone for the rest of the film, Florya winds up hooking up with another small group of partisans, and they set off to hook up with the main group. But things don't go well. 

This section of the film - well, it's all amazing - is very powerful, in an understated way. It really accentuates how disembodied things can get, with the fog of war quite literally descending. And it all leads up to a yet more devastating scenario, the brutal climax of the film, when Florya thinks he might just have found safe refuge in the village of Perekhody.

This guy, with his pet lemur (?), is scary!

Fun days out, Nazi style...

The motley crew of Germans, and their Russian/Ukrainian militia henchmen, are modelled on the Dirlewanger Brigade, a notorious SS unit, lead by a criminal sadist, and comprising many of the worst in the German army, it being a unit that convicts served in, and sometimes serving as a punishment assignment for disgraced officers and men.

Oh what fun we had...

Well, not everyone...

Holiday snaps, Ostfront style.

At the heart of the film is a long and unflinching scene that kind of makes one think of a Breughel meets Bosch (how apt!) vision of hell. The proto-medieval carnival of destruction that is perpetrated on the Byelorussion village - and this film is a sort of testimony to the destruction of many hundreds of such villages - is what Alan Clark is referring to when he says, in Barbarossa, that this was the theatre 'where the septic violence of Nazism festered openly', in 'scenes of not so much medieval as of pre-Roman barbarism'

Smile for the camera...

At least this Nazi is honest about his ideological intent.

Apparently the filming of Come And See was genuinely harrowing for Kravchenko: he lost weight, and when he went back to school, some of his hair had turned grey! I mention his gurning, above, and just below is a signature example of how his face conveys a debased brutalised mix of fear and suffering.

14 years old!

Releasing pent up anger...

Not a particularly pleasant film, by and large, then. But, in my view, a rare and powerful masterpiece of cinematic art. And, like the greatest art of any era, capable of powerfully affecting the viewer, and, perhaps, possibly even changing them.

Friday 26 May 2017

Show Report: Bovington Tank Museum Model Expo

Nicely executed turret numbers on a Pz IV at Bovington.

NB: I drafted this post mid-February, but never got round to completing it, 'cause of the ubiquitous demands of the new home. Sometimes I will schedule such belated posts so as to appear more chronologically correctl. In this instance I decided to let it appear out of sequence.

I drove down to Bovington Tank Museum yesterday, with my modelling pal Paul. It was a bit of an epic trek for a day-trip, at about three and a half to four and a half hours each way! February 11th saw the Museum hosting a Model Expo, with large numbers of modellers showcasing their handiwork, and a smaller quantity of traders helping us part with our lolly.

The Tortoise: a hard-shelled monster!

A Sherman 'Crab' flail tank, one of Hobart's Funnies.

One thing I noticed, and it almost makes me feel guilty admitting it, was that I was less interested in viewing the models exhibitors were displaying than I was in viewing the real tanks, or buying books and kits, etc. Given the efforts modellers put into their craft this struck me as kind of tragic.

The only decent pic I took of any models, was this one of a lovely SturmTiger.

Having said this, I did take a look at most of the models on show. But for the great majority it was the most cursory of glances. This disparity was echoed, somewhat ruefully, in a notice on one stand that read 'hours to make, seconds to destroy'!

And my interest in this aspect of the show was reflected in my photos: lots of pics of the museum's exhibits, hardly any of the models. I do regret not photographing or filming the larger remote-controlled tanks. The 1/6th scale stuff - Action Man on steroids! - was pretty amazing.

Nice waffle-pattern zimmerit, and useful detailing stuff: logs and stowage, etc.

Visits to museums are ace for scoring some interesting detail ref.

I've not seen a Stug in uniform green like this elsewhere.

Of course, I over-spent. My haul of kits was gratifyingly large, and included four Armourfast Panzer IVs, a Trumpeter tank transporter, a Zvezda gun and crew, and quite a few planes, including some by the defunct British company Frog, a brand that's new to me. All WWII German, all 1/72.

Book-wise, I bought some highly specialised reference material, including Valiant Wings titles on the Blohm & Voss Bv 141, and Dornier Do 17Z, a mag on 'Secret Bombers of the Third Reich', and a few misc second-hand titles, on Stukas, the Luftwaffe and WWI warplanes. One of these was a larger than A4 hard book dedicated to the Ju 87, or Stuka, which had some lovely three or four page spreads.


Pz IV sans tracks.

The only hobby accessory I purchased was some 0.4mm masking tape, for masking canopy frames. I wish I hadn't bothered with this, as it happens, as I'm not sure I'll use it for the purpose I bought it for: I want to mask the 'glass' panels, not the metal frames! Doh!!

Paul had advised me to invest in some adhesive foil for this job, but I couldn't find anyone selling any. Just goes to show how sometimes a fog descends on my brain at these events. The urge to spend overpowers ones critical faculties. I think our hyper-materialist culture ingrains in many of us, myself included, the sub-Descartesian pseudo-philosophy; 'I spend, therefore I am'!

Hetzer? Nice camo'!

A nice view of three different camo' schemes.

Jagdpanther road wheels and track... awesome hardware.

SdKfz 234/3, with insignia of the 16th Inf. Div.

Russian KV-1

Aah... the almost cute, and ironically named, Goliath. [*]

An early war (Pz I?) German command vehicle.

It's hard to credit that a vehicle such as that pictured above could be part of the 'armoured might' of blitzkrieg. It looks more like a tracked pram or bathtub than a tank! I do like the stencilled tank ID, in white outline. And the early war gray-brown camo is cool.

As mentioned above, I overspent, as is my usual MO these days. This time I bought loads of aeroplane kits: the Mister Kit Fiesler Storch was one of several different models of this gangly plane for sale on the Valiant Wings book stall. I love the Roy Cross artwork on the Airfix Fw 189. A beautiful painting! One of these is a recurring baleful presence in the superb film Come And See, reviewed elsewhere here on't blog.

Love the old Airfix box!

Me like Me 110s.

I bought three Me 110s, bringing my total of these fab looking 'Zerstorers' to four (two by Edouard, One a frog, and one (?)). The Do 17Z and one of the Me 110s are by Frog, a manufacturer I'd not encountered (or even heard of) before. I covet one of their Arado 234 Jet Bombers. But the stall which was selling the Frog kits didn't have that particular model. Like classic Airfix of yesteryear, the  Frog kits often have lovely box artwork.

Some land based stuff!

In my more normal land warfare niche I bought a Trumpeter Tank Transporter, and two sets of Armourfast Panzers. The latter filling a bit of a gap in my German armour collection with some medium Pz III and IV tanks. And finally, in terms of kits at least, I bought a rather lovely looking Roden Opel Blitz Tankwagen. I also bought a few books, mostly Luftwaffe ref. Rodent are another brand that often have fab box art, something I always appreciate.

My swag from the show is shown in the pictures above and below. What I really need to do is to start in on building stuff from my ever-increasing stockpile.

Bought this to help with my Airfix Bv 141

... and this for help with my Frog Do 17Z

The Valiant Wings titles are superb, being packed with more info than I ever realised I could want to know, including lots of great photos and a good number of colour illustrations. Somewhat to my own surprise, if I'm 100% honest, I found I really did want to know all the minutiae! It seems madly extravagant to me to be buying books like this that cost more than the models themselves. But it gives me so much pleasure, perusing them, and using them to help build my kits, that I just go with it.

It was a good day out, despite a number of Bovington's German Tiger tank variants I would've loved to have seen not being on display. I made up for this loss by spending yet more money, acquiring some nice green Dad's Army socks, and a Tiger Tank T-shirt from the museum's gift shop!


[*] Of course no weapon intended to maim and kill can really be thought cute. Very tasteless of me.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Show Report: Partizan, 2017

Not having posted in bloomin' ages... In fact, not having done anything mini-military in ages (other than watch films or read books), I figured I had to go to Partizan, 2017, and get a fix of wargaming and whatnot.

This is what I needed to see!

Yes... oh yes!


I managed to persuade Teresa to accompany me, for aulde thymes sake. It seems her days of humouring me thus are on the way out. And, to be honest, I can't really complain: she's been to enough shows with me. She's done her penance! She pretty much always ends up sitting down amidst the slightly odd crowd that is the wargaming fraternity, reading or watching something on her tablet., whilst I go round acquiring more stuff I probably ought not to.

I always like baggage train stuff. Plus this has a sign pointing to Cambridge, my local/home town.

This and the above are from a very nice 28mm AWI game.

I don't know if it's just me. Perhaps any other attendees who feel similarly, or differently, for that matter, could chip in? Although I won't argue that The George Stephenson Pavilion has some  things going for it - it's far better lit, for example - nevertheless, I don't like it as a venue. 

It seems airless. Very airless. And when you have hordes of wargamers, not all of whom have discovered the concept of personal hygiene, you need lots of air! I always end up feeling very out of sorts whenever I'm in these hangar like spaces. Even to the extent of dizzy spells. Mind you, it could be I'm just rather unfit. That's certainly very obviously true of many of us wargaming types!
The jungle scenery of Like A Stonewall's New Guinea hilltop scenario was stunning.

I think I may have more, and poss a little better pics... will post if I can find 'em!

One of the reasons I like to go to Partizan, other than it being amongst the more 'local' shows for me (i.e only an hour or twos drive either way), is the eye-candy type games. And this year didn't disappoint in that respect, with many great looking games, and a few real corkers. My favourite was the 28mm WWI demo game put on by Great War Miniatures.

For me, this is how wargames should: a moveable diorama.

Getting down to eye-level revealed some stunning views.

My mate Paul is a WWI nut. He says he'll get me into it one day...

... stuff like this sells it to me big time. Fab!

I adore this gun and crew. A work of art!

From the visual beauty point of view, Great War Miniatures' Cambrai game (I think that's what it was? I didn't take any notes, or chat to many people this time!), was, quite frankly, simply stunning. I want to take a leaf from their book in both how they paint figures, and their attention to scenic detail (albeit I'm currently working in smaller scales). Their figure painting seems, to me, perfectly judged; neither too detailed nor too basic. And the colours - how close they are to 'authentic', I don't know - please the eye, and are easy to 'read', if you know what I mean.

Lots of great scenery...

Call the glazier...

Och, it's fine dae to get kilt...

Another funky German gun.

Two Mona Lisas!?


They also included some wonderful incidental detail, such as German soldiers looting artwork, champagne, and so on. And there was even a micturating Bosch, in a very nicely rendered bathroom. He'd obviously been imbibing, as he's missing the bath. Still, that room, along with most in this model model village, will need a complete refurb anyway!

My only book purchase.

What with all the expenses of our new home (nearly been here a year now!), I should’ve restrained myself after my first purchase, R. F. Delderfield’s The retreat From Moscow, which - despite its title - is the novelist and Napoleonic buff’s account of the whole 1812 campaign, which I got for £5. But, like the fool I am - and despite having forgotten to bring cash (as I did on the previous Partizan*) - I popped out to a garage for some lolly, and ended up overspending.

More WWII Jerry gear in 1/72.

Maybe it’s just me, but I was a bit shocked at the prices of all the figures and models. A pal commented on this as well, when I showed him my show swag. In the end, apart from the book, I just got some more 1/72 WWII German stuff: an Italieri Opel Blitz ambulance, and two sets from Plastic Soldier Co: RSOs with Pak 40s, and Medium Trucks. I’m in a kind of rear-echelon reverie, I guess.

It’s nice to finally see a mainstream brand suppling the RSO to those of us who, like me, love these strange little tracked tractors. But £17 for the two vehicles and two guns (plus crews, etc) did kind of hurt. On the plus side, PSC are generous in a supplying sufficient variety of parts to allow one to build 3 variants of the RSO (round cab, square cab, and mounted Pak 40), and either Opel Blitz or Mercedes trucks.

A smaller scale WWI game. Not sure who put this one on.

I always like being able to take serial shots such as this.
Another WWI game I didn't find out the name of.

More WWI: Lenton Gamers' 'Oppy Wood', in - I think? - 54mm.

I noted that there were quite a few WWI games. more than I'm used to seeing. I guess its the centenary of that conflict, which has no doubt focussed interest on it.

The brass.

Nice pink facings on these dragoons!

I like this panoramic eye-level shot.

The Perrys had a beautiful Egyptian Napoleonic game, which might've been the Battle of Alexandria (is this historical, or fictional?), pictured above and below.

Beautiful figures, beautiful scenery... fab!

Mmm... beige facings.

As a major fan of the work of Tony Barton, it was nice to see the 15mm Battle of Dresden, which featured hordes of beautiful figures from Barton's capable hands. I meant to ask if these were Battle Honours era figures, or the later/larger AB range. But I was in a taciturn mood this show, so just looked and snapped these pics. Was this the Too-Fat-Lardies game?

Beautiful lancers.

Nice scenery too.

Dem guns, dem guns... 

More fab cavalry.

I was sorely tempted to start buying figures for a new era; English Civil War, American Civil War, even WWI, perhaps. But I managed to restrain myself. This meant not even looking too hard at some stalls. Adler, who do the 6mm ranges that are the backbone of one of my Russia 1812 collections, aren't at that many shows. And normally Id make a bee line for them when they are. This time a furtive glance was all I dared! In case I suddenly bought a new army in a new era.

So, all in all, fun was certainly had. By me at any rate. I think Teresa's highlight was eating chips and beans in the caff! Actually, thats another thing I don't like about these sorts of modern venues: crap overpriced catering. Still, I enjoyed the show. And it gave y my fix of mini-military delights. So... mustn't grumble!

*Unbelievably, there are no cash machines on the site.