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REFLECTION (2021, UKR) – 7/10

The Ukrainian Valentin Vasjanovič presented himself with the nihilistic dystopia “Atlantis” a few years ago, and “Reflection” or “Vidblysk” is a complete stylistic and thematic continuation of its predecessor. The only difference is that the time of action in “Atlantis” was a few years after the end of the war in Ukraine, which turned the country into a scorched earth, while in “Reflection” we travel to the year 2014 and the beginning of the war in the Donbas province. And the film premiered in the main program of the festival in Venice seems completely terrifying, creepy, shocking and painful. This impression is enhanced by long mostly static wide shots taken from afar, as if from a distance.

Everything here is hyperrealistic and the camera is only in motion when the main character Serhij (Roman Luckij), a doctor who will be captured by the Russians or separatists from the Donbas province, is moving. Sometimes he moves on his own, sometimes he is dragged along by guys in phantoms as they take him to torture and torture, and everything that we will see here is completely creepy. Serhij is a young surgeon who went to the war zone with a colleague to help the wounded, but one night while they are heading towards the border area, they take a wrong turn. Instead of the Ukrainian checkpoint, they will end up with the Russians or separatists, and while his colleague will be killed immediately, Serhij will end up in captivity.

It is the film that brutally shows how war has a dehumanizing effect on people, and everything that Serhij will experience, suffer, and later see there is difficult to describe at all. After undergoing torture himself and a forced confession that he is a terrorist, because of his medical profession he will be forced to participate in the tortures of those who had the same fate as him. After the Russians are done with the torture, his task is to keep those unfortunates alive for another round of torture, and then he will burn the bodies of the murdered in a mobile crematorium. The slow pace and static camera have an additional effect on this painful, creepy atmosphere from beginning to end, and “Reflection” also works somewhat symbolic, metaphorical, because after the exchange of prisoners, Serhij will return home and try to get used to a normal life again after everything he experienced and saw.

Although the film lasts a good two hours, it consists of a total of only about thirty frames, which, because they were filmed somehow from afar, have an additional disturbing effect on the viewer. The man has the impression that he is there somewhere from the side, and is really watching everything that is happening, and the discomfort is enhanced by the length of individual shots and scenes that last for several minutes. It is a film in which Vasjanovič asks in a brutal and cruel way what happens to the spirit and psyche of a man who goes through everything Serhij went through, and in order to make everything seem as authentic and real as possible, he hired the Ukrainian writer and journalist Stanislav as a consultant Asayeva, who spent two and a half years in the infamous Russian Izolatsya prison in Donetsk.