Based on the novel of the same name by Vasil Bykov, Sergei Loznitsa’s follow up to the wonderful My Joy is a hard-hitting, brilliant experience. The year is 1942 and the place is the Western frontier of the USSR – Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy) is suspected of collaborating with the Germans after he is let go when three of his co-workers are hung. Two partisans, Burov (Vladislav Abashin) and Voitik (Sergei Kolesov) are given the task of killing Sushenya in punishment for his crime. However, what awaits the trio is much darker than they could have anticipated…
Continuing his exploration of the dark heart of the Russian people, Loznistsa constructs a brutal but paced affair. Reminiscent of The Killers (1946) in its opening act, the film unravels to show exactly how the darkness operates – In the Fog can almost be considered a companion to Loznitsa’s previous work – the bleak landscape reminiscent of the road in My Joy, while the guilt the characters carry can be seen as being handed down through the ages.
Although the deliberate pacing might put off viewers, those willing to invest their time will find a film that’s dripping with atmosphere: eschewing the black-and-white morality of big-budgeted epics, Loznitsa constructs a personal journey to hell.
The cinematography washes the barren landscape out even to the point of indiscrimination – these places are beyond the audience’s imagination. The harsh winter is reflected in the way the light constantly bleaches the surroundings. The lengthy takes almost dare the audience to look away, while the performance of Vladimir Svirskiy is nothing less than mesmerising: his take on a man whose guilt has long been assumed before any proof is produced is both angry and laden with the weight of a thousand resignations.
The other mention must go to Grossmeier, played with aplomb by Vlad Ivanov, who is perfect at bringing the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ to life. His cruelty, the moving force of the tragedy on the screen, is indeed one of the most affecting performances anyone can hope to see on the big screen this year.
All in all, In The Fog is one of the most impressive films of this year, a brutal tale told in the most languid language imaginable. Unmissable and a terrific step forward for Sergei Loznitsa.
Watch the trailer: