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KLONDIKE (2022, UKR) – 6.5/10

And you wouldn’t believe it, here is another film from Ukraine that deals with the war before the war with Russia and that deals with the events even before the Russians launched a full-scale offensive at the beginning of 2022. Since the outbreak there in 2014 and since Russia annexed Crimea and occupied the Donbass region, there is a state of war in those parts of Ukraine, although the situation was not covered by the media all that year. Maryna Er Gorbach’s film takes us to a village in the east of Ukraine at the very beginning of that war before the war, just at the time when pro-Russian separatists unprovokedly shot down a civilian plane traveling from Amsterdam to Malaysia in the summer of 2014, killing almost 300 people. .

It happened very close to the place from the movie shot in almost identical style where practically all those pre-war war movies coming out of Ukraine for the last two, three years were shot. Again, it was filmed mostly with a static camera with long, usually wide shots with a constant feeling of discomfort and with the impression of complete dehumanization. Irka and Tolik live in a village on the very border between what is left of Ukraine and what was occupied by the separatists, and even though their house was literally blown up by a shell, they still stay there. The Irish woman is in the late stages of pregnancy, and luckily it’s summer and you can live in a house where one load-bearing wall has literally been torn down, in its place they pasted colorful wallpaper with a painted Pacific island.

Most of the neighbors have already fled somewhere, and even though Tolik would like to follow them, the Irish woman does not want to leave home and sees her husband’s desire to leave the house where they have spent their whole lives as a weakness. However, the situation is now such that they cannot leave even if they want to, and from the hill on which their house is located, they constantly see various armies, paramilitary units and territorial guards moving somewhere. Bombings and destruction have become a reality for them, and everything seems almost surreal, unreal, disorienting and inhumane. People don’t behave like people there anymore, so they won’t be overly surprised when bodies from a blown-up plane start falling around their house, and the situation will be further complicated when Irka’s brother Yarik appears there and will accuse his brother-in-law of being a traitor who cooperates with the occupiers.

And who is really cooperating with whom here, it is almost impossible to follow because the environment here is really unreal and insane, so almost every day some kind of soldiers come to Tolik’s and Irka’s yard, and the whole story leads to a shocking and terrifying culmination in the very end. “Klondike” premiered at the Sundance festival, where Gorbach received an award for directing, and the film then had a great festival life and was screened at countless festivals around the world. It is a brutal, harrowing and completely nihilistic drama about war and what such a situation does to people, but the biggest problem with “Klondike” is that we have seen similar themes and stylistically similar realizations before.