Soviet Film Wednesday: The Ascent

The Ascent

The Ascent, a Soviet film released in 1977, is a remarkable and powerful war drama that stands as a testament to the exceptional talent of its director, Larisa Shepitko. The film, which is an adaptation of the novel Sotnikov by Vasil Bykov, masterfully explores themes of sacrifice, betrayal, and the moral complexities of war. Set against the backdrop of the Great Patriotic War, The Ascent tells the harrowing story of two partisans, Rybak and Sotnikov, who are forced to confront the limits of their own humanity when they are captured by the enemy.

The film is notable for its stunning cinematography, which captures the bleak and desolate landscape of the Belarusian countryside during the war. The stark imagery is further enhanced by Shepitko’s use of black-and-white film, which serves to heighten the sense of despair and hopelessness that permeates the story. This visual approach, combined with the film’s haunting score, effectively conveys the brutal realities of war and the immense suffering it inflicts on both the soldiers and the civilian population.

The Ascent features a remarkable cast that brings to life the complex and morally ambiguous characters of the story. The standout performances of Boris Plotnikov as Sotnikov and Vladimir Gostyukhin as Rybak powerfully convey the inner turmoil of their characters, as they struggle to reconcile their loyalty to their comrades with their own survival instincts. The supporting cast, which includes Sergei Yakovlev, Lyudmila Polyakova, and Anatoli Solonitsyn, also delivers a series of memorable and emotionally resonant performances.

In addition to its technical and artistic merits, The Ascent is a significant film within the broader context of Soviet cinema, as it was one of the last major films to be released before the onset of the era of Glasnost and Perestroika. As such, it serves as a poignant reminder of the artistic and cultural achievements of the Soviet Union during a time of increasing political and social change. The film’s bold and unflinching examination of the human cost of war has earned it a lasting place in the annals of world cinema, and it stands as a fitting tribute to the extraordinary talent of Larisa Shepitko.

The Ascent is a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores the moral complexities of war and the human capacity for both self-sacrifice and betrayal. Its striking cinematography, haunting score, and exceptional cast make it a standout in both Soviet and world cinema. The Ascent, which was released in 1977 and directed by Larisa Shepitko, remains a poignant and important film that continues to resonate with audiences nearly half a century after its release.

Curated by Jennifer