Newest Reviews
Jailbreak Pact
News of the World
Beyond Clueless
Stylist, The
Sky is On Fire, The
Wrong Turn
In a Year with 13 Moons
Strange Affair of Uncle Harry, The
Sinners, The
Tammy and the T-Rex
State Secret
Mogul Mowgli
Owners, The
Twentieth Century, The
Story of Gilbert and Sullivan, The
What Lies Below
Dead Pigs
Willy's Wonderland
It's in the Air
School's Out Forever
Stump the Guesser
Last Warning, The
Ascent, The
Hurt by Paradise
Saint Maud
Johnny Frenchman
Glitch in the Matrix, A
Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris
Newest Articles
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Maroc 7 and Invasion
Network Double Bills: The Best of Benny Hill and The Likely Lads
Network Double Bills: Some Girls Do and Deadlier Than the Male
Absolutely Bananas: Link on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Hawk the Slayer and The Medusa Touch
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
Toons for the Heads: Fantastic Planet and Adult Animation
Nature Girl: The New World on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Perfect Friday and Robbery
Network Double Bills: The House in Nightmare Park and The Man Who Haunted Himself
Newley Minted: The Strange World of Gurney Slade on Blu-ray
Bad Love: The Night Porter on Blu-ray
Brevity is the Soul of Weird: Short Sharp Shocks on Blu-ray
Get Your Ass to Mars: Total Recall on Blu-ray
Call the Professionals: Le Cercle Rouge on Blu-ray
When There's No More Room in Hell: Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray
The Butterfly Effect: Mothra on Blu-ray
Living Room Theatre: Play for Today Volume 1 on Blu-ray
Didn't He Do Well: The Bruce Forsyth Show on DVD
  Ascent, The What's The Difference Between A Hero And A Coward?
Year: 1977
Director: Larisa Shepitko
Stars: Boris Plotnikov, Vladimir Gostyukhin, Sergey Yakovlev, Lyudmila Polyakova, Viktoriya Goldentul, Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Mariya Vinogradova, Nikolai Sektimenko, Anatoli Chebotaryov, Sergei Kanishchev, Mikhail Selyutin, Leonid Yukin, Aleksandr Zvenigorsky
Genre: Drama, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The frozen East in the Soviet Union in the depths of the Second World War, where Russian partisans are waging an intermittent battle against the Nazi invaders, which enrages the Germans and makes the all the more determined to recruit locals to their cause. Almost anyone fighting for the partisans would never believe they would be so weak-willed as to go to the other side, but the fact remains the Nazis have their powers of persuasion, and the promise of staying alive can be a potent one. So it is that this group of freedom fighters are struggling after encounters with enemy soldiers have picked too many of them off, and their hunger grows worse...

Between them, Larisa Shepitko and her husband Elem Klimov made two of the most widely recognised Soviet era war movies, and both of them happened to be their last. Klimov helmed the perhaps more infamous Come and See in 1985 as if it was an answer project to his late wife's final effort, The Ascent, which had been released eight years before, and like many a picture from the Russian industry was war themed. Most of these were designed to remind the populace of what they had sacrificed and achieved back in the war years, in order to bolster their patriotism as austerity bit down hard: remember how bad things used to be, comrades!

And take that into account when judging your life of today, but Shepitko took a different tack, as there was no glory here, it was unrelenting misery from start to finish, unless you were about to accept its religious imagery as proof there was a reason to make it through the bad times to reach the Kingdom of Heaven once you had died - though even then, there was no guarantee you might not end up purely as food for the worms. Still, there was a definite feeling that this film was telling you off for ever having the temerity to complain about anything, even when to get from there to now there had been so many of those who suffered so you could appreciate that luxury.

We are asked to decide who had it worse, the chap who made it through the sheer Hell to "ascend" to potential Heaven, or the bloke who denied himself that to opt for the chance for more precious life, only with the caveats that he was now a traitor to all he held dear: every man has his price. Would he be able to live with himself with the scorn of those other survivors who did not give in, no matter that many of them would either see loved ones die or die themselves (so, er, not survivors for long, then)? These two points of view were embodied by a pair of the partisans, Sotnikov (Boris Plotnikov) and Rybak (Vladimir Gostyukhin), who separate from the group to find them some food, a basic human need the war has taken from them. That is not all it will take, as simple dignity is heading out the window as well.

So these two men endure freezing physical conditions and meagre supplies for the chance to be shot at by the Nazis once they establish the farm they were heading for has been burned down, and in all likelihood the partisans are going to starve to death. Before they can return with the bad news, it gets worse, as the rebels are attacked and captured, along with an innocent mother of three who happened to give in to a single moment of conscience betrayed by a cough from the ailing Sotnikov. There follows some of the bleakest drama ever put on film as the interrogations begin, but which of them will crack? Using a combination of stark, monochrome photography and an increasingly melodramatic music score (by Alfred Schnittke) with intense performances, Shepitko concocted her version of the unimaginable ordeal of life under the Nazis where evil reigned supreme, and you had to say, while she undoubtedly got the tone correct, that stern lesson from your betters, be they the authorities or religious leaders, was not always easy to accept, as if it was there for its own sake. But the grimness of its ferocity was not easily dismissed.

Aka: Voskhozhdenie

[The Criterion Collection release this on Blu-ray with the following special features:

New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New selected-scene commentary featuring film scholar Daniel Bird
New video introduction by Anton Klimov, son of director Larisa Shepitko and filmmaker Elem Klimov
New interview with actor Lyudmila Polyakova
The Homeland of Electricity, a 1967 short film by Shepitko
Larisa, a 1980 short film tribute to his late wife by Klimov
Two documentaries from 2012 about Shepitko's life, work, and relationship with Klimov
Program from 1999 featuring an interview with Shepitko
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: An essay by poet Fanny Howe.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 136 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Stately Wayne Manor
Enoch Sneed
  Geraint Morgan


Last Updated: