Quick recap: The movie centers around two Soviet Partisans who go off in search of food for their group. Along the way, they are captured by Nazis and interrogated. And then everyone dies, except one guy who tries to kill himself but is unsuccessful. I’m not a fan of spoiling movies, but if you are looking for a good war movie where everyone is saved at the last second by their troop, this ain’t it.
Fun (?) Fact: Depressing fact: The director of this film, Larisa Shepitko, died in a car accident a couple of years after ‘The Ascent’ was released, so this was her last movie.
My thoughts: In case the hint hasn’t been picked up yet, I’ll just go ahead and say that this was a DEPRESSING movie. Depressing in the sense that after it finally ended, I curled up in a ball and regretted ever doing this list, but then I looked at cat pictures and felt a little better. I’m still going to need a few years of therapy.
As I have stated before, I don’t like to look up information about the movie before watching it ,so all I had to go on was that 1) this is a war movie and in the war movies I have seen, everything is gritty but then people get rescued and the Americans always come out on top. GO USA. and 2) the movie is called ‘The Ascent’, which I took to mean that the Soviets would climb out of their situation and everything would be ok. Boy, was I wrong. The film is in black and white and most of the scenery consists of snow and trees. There is barely any music, except when someone is about to be tortured or about to die. That alone would be depressing enough but then there are the characters. Besides the partisans, the Nazis capture an old man who has been working for them but who they no longer trust, a woman who helped hide the two men and who has young children to care for by herself, and a child. One of the partisans decides to step up and admit that he orchestrated everything but of course that does no good. The other partisan begs for his life and is allowed to join the Nazi police. He is immediately told to help walk the prisoners, his friends, to the gallows where he puts a noose around everyone’s neck and helps them to be executed. Seeing his terrible choice, he attempts to hang himself several times but is unable to die. He considers escaping but knows he would be shot dead on the spot so he is left to endure staying at this camp.
I think what got under my skin the most was the lack of violence and torture shown. At one point, one of the partisans has a star branded into his chest. I was thankful to not have to watch that but instead the camera focused on his face which was so much worse. In the scene at the gallows as everyone is hung, the camera focuses on a young child forced to witness the deaths. As he sees everyone hanging, he sheds a tear and it’s just awful. I don’t claim to know much about war movies but this different perspective combined with the saddest ending ever, makes for me, a more realistic view of war. Nowadays, directors try to top each other with the goriness but this movie, made in 1977 does the opposite and creates scenes I can’t get out of my head.
The most poignant part of the film was the scene in which the interrogator kept trying to get information and the partisan only answered in response, ‘What were you before the war?’ It was a question I had never thought about before, that the Nazis were, at some point, regular people with regular jobs and families, not the monsters that they eventually became. War is hell, y’all.
Final review: 5/5. I really wanted to give ‘The Ascent’ a 1 because it bothered me so much, but that’s precisely why it needs a 5. Schindler’s List is seen as the go to ‘World War 2’ movie, but my vote is for this one as essential viewing.
Up next: Metropolis