Morals and their consequences form the central theme of Sergei Loznitsa’s World War II drama IN THE FOG, based on the novel by Vasili Bykov, which premiered at Cannes this year to critical acclaim.
Set during the Nazi occupation of Belarus, Loznitsa’s film presents the conflict between suspected traitor Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy) and justice-seeking comrade Burov (Vladislav Abashin). Sushenya’s apparent involvement in the hanging of three of his fellow partisans comes under intense scrutiny by the headstrong and judgemental Burov. When Burov’s plan to carry out retribution is abruptly halted by the local authorities, the two men, along with Burov’s partner Voitik (Sergei Kolesov), must find their way safely out of the dense woodland in which they find themselves.
There is an interesting use of flashbacks to reveal the conflicting moral dilemmas faced by the trio. This ultimately gives us an insight into how personal traits such as nobility, pride and cowardliness can manifest themselves in the context of war, as well as the potential horror of their consequences.
IN THE FOG would not be described as a crowd-pleasing film. Characterised by bleached, grainy colours thanks to the cinematography of Oleg Mutu (Beyond the Hills and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) and a lack of any music in the soundtrack, it makes no secret of the fact that it is a thought-provoking work about men dealing with questions of morality in a disintegrating society. Whether you like it or not, it compels you to reflect on their actions well after the end credits have rolled. Drawing comparisons to the works Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, IN THE FOG takes a cold, stern look at human nature and forces us to ask ourselves what we would do in this tragic trio’s shoes.