Before the full-scale russian invasion to Ukraine on February 24, 2022, I worked as a film critic. While 12 years in this profession, I have watched thousands of films and written hundreds of movie reviews. But now, being at the front line, I deeply overestimated all my film experience. Explosions and shots knock everything superfluous out of my head. In such circumstances I think only about the things that really matters: how I played with my child, about the main words that I said to my relatives and friends, about the moments when I was filled with a stream of joy and felt the fullness of life. I selected 10 films that gave me such life experience. The memory of these films gives me the strength to survive in the war. I hope that these films will give energy to you too.
“Forrest Gump” 1994 dir. Robert Zemeckis
A parable comedy that reminds you that the best solution in the most difficult situations is to act as simply as possible.
The protagonist of the film behaves like a person with a mild form of autism. In many fateful situations, he just goes with the flow. He does not criticize, does not analyze, does not defend his position, but simply accepts what is happening as it really is. All the actions of the protagonist are dictated as by some kind of higher providence. In stressful situations, when you risk a lot and don’t know how to act, you remember the example of Forrest, and you understand that the best way out of the situation is to act sincerely and simply.
“Another round” 2020 dir. Thomas Vinterberg
A comedy drama that proves that the best way to solve most difficult life circumstances is to accept them easily.
Unlike the hero of the aforementioned film, the hero of this outstanding Scandinavian film, finding himself in deadlock situations, deeply reflects. Does it help him get out of the situation? No. However, he manages to unleash complex life conflicts thanks to alcohol. And with the every round of alcohol his life is filled with new colors and vivid emotions. In fact, drinking blocks his ability to escalate the situation and makes him, like Forrest Gump, accept cruel life circumstances easily. And it helps main character to pass even the most difficult tests in his life.
“Dunkirk” 2017 dir. Christopher Nolan
One of the best war films that shows complex combat mechanics.
There is no main character in this film. There are a number of characters torn apart from each other who do one thing together. Warfare has chaotic and incredibly aggressive management rules. It often happens that one separate process or project in a war is jointly done by dozens of people who do not even know about the existence of each other. In peacetime, such an organization of labor would collapse in a minute. But in war, this controlled chaos pays off. And this movie really illustrates that.
The leitmotif of this film is the hypnotizing sound of a ticking stopwatch. Once in the war, this sound took on a new, even more powerful meaning for me. Here, at the front line, shelling is so intense that after the every explosion, hearing disappears for several tens of seconds. At the same time you don’t even hear how your heart beats, and a complete vacuum sets in in your thoughts. But when the shelling stops, the hearing gradually begins to return. In one of these cases, the first thing I heard was the ticking of the clock. Exactly like in this movie. And I thought, “How many of those seconds really are allotted for the rest of my life. And how cool that I’m still alive.”
“Samsara” 2011 dir. Ron Fricke
Comprehensive film. We call about such pieces of art “film-epoch”. But “Samsara” is more voluminous than an epoch.
In 1977, NASA launched the “Voyager” probes into space, in which they put golden discs with information about our planet and humanity. This data was sent with the hope that it would be intercepted by possibly existing sentient beings from other planets. And this information will help them get to know us. If there is an initiative to launch such a satellite again, then I would like to recommend to put this film “Samsara” in it. This movie would be enough to understand the overall picture of humanity. This movie is about the ambiguity of our morality, about the diversity of our cultures, about the versatility of our spirituality.
“Incendies” (2010) dir. Denis Villeneuve
Film exposes the cruel truth about human nature, in which good and evil complement each other.
“Incendies” is a kind of modern remake of the parable of Cain and Abel from one of the main directors of our time, Denis Villeneuve. Using the example of one family in this film, it is shown that the closest relative and the worst enemy can be the same person.
Many from childhood are accustomed to dividing everything in the world into good and evil, into white and black. At the same time, in every possible way supporting everything light, and everything dark – belligerently denying. But the world is arranged in such a way that one is impossible without the other. The Yin Yang symbol will lose its integrity if the black half is removed from it. After all, it is the dark forces in our world that force show light brighter. And vice versa. So it is in this film: good and evil are woven into such a complex bloody knot that it is simply impossible to separate one from the other.
“Soul” 2020 dir. Pete Docter
A film that makes the viewer ask himself the question: “Am I really doing what I should be doing in life.”
This question becomes a cornerstone in youth, when we choose a profession for the future. But the mechanics of fate is not so straightforward and unambiguous. Having realized a dream and having implemented plans, a person experiences the joy of victory, but immediately after this, emptiness comes from the fact that there is nothing more to strive for. That is why new plans have to be made. Realize them. Face desolation. And again run to a new goal. But the main character of the wise animation “Soul” has enough strength to break this vicious circle. The protagonist understands that one should strive not for self-realization, but for happiness. Self-realization makes you constantly run in circles from one success or disappointment to another. But the path to happiness has no boundaries.
“Another Year” 2010 dir. Mike Leigh
This film provides a very simple answer to the complex question “What does it mean to live happily?”
“Another Year” is filled with everyday joy, soulful conversations and the cozy world of one completely ordinary family. Happiness is like health: when it is, you do not notice it, and when it is not, you suffer.
In this film, happiness is shown elusively. There are no bright climaxes, sounds of fanfare, special effects and frames flooded with bright warm colors in this film. That is why it is clearer and more honest.
The heroes of the film are engaged in very simple things, in which at first glance there is nothing special. They go to work, communicate with friends and family, cope with simple daily chores, and on weekends they grow tomatoes in their small garden. “They cultivate their own garden,” as Voltaire would say. After watching this film, it is difficult to retell its plot because nothing special happens in the film. But the great director Mike Leigh was able to show all this cute everyday banality in such a way that you sit in front of the screen for two hours, as if spellbound.
“In the Mood for Love” 2000 dir. Kar-Wai Wong
An exquisite melodrama that shows love inviolably, purely and honestly.
For many viewers, while watching this film, the heart begins to beat in the rhythm of its charming soundtrack. The plot unfolds slowly, focusing on the details, intonations, gestures and other subtle touches in the relationship of the main characters. The more silence in their dialogues, the more eloquent they sound. After all, unspoken feelings, like unfulfilled dreams, are not forgotten.
“The Great Beauty” 2013 dir. Paolo Sorrentino
A film that helps you find inspiration when everything seems to be lost.
The magic of creativity in this tape is elegantly intertwined with ruthless realism. The camera here enthusiastically hovers between colorful characters. And the plot is filled with rapid expressive flashes.
The protagonist of the picture lives in a world overflowing with beauty, chic and wealth. Bathed in luxury like strawberries in whipped cream. But the sudden news of the death of his longtime lover makes the protagonist reevaluate what is happening. After all, it was she who at one time gave him the opportunity to feel the great beauty of happiness and love. Beauty that gives meaning to life.
“The Tree of Life” 2010 dir. Terrence Malick
Prayer movie. Film-parable. After watching it, you feel some inexplicable lightness and calmness, as after a Mass in a church.
Once, during one of the heavy attacks, I sat in the dugout and watched the earth tremble from the explosions. Chopped pine roots stuck out from the wall of our shelter. The sap of the tree flowed out of them, which immediately solidified. It shone like mercury and resembled tears. A few months later, I don’t remember how many explosions there were that evening and what weapons were fired at us then. But I clearly remember the image: how the earth wept with heavy cold tears. On such poetic associations, the masterpiece of film philosopher Terrence Malick “The Tree of Life” is built.
The plot in this picture recedes from the foreground, giving place to grandiose visual images. They pour in a thick stream, so that the viewer is sitting in front of the screen, as in front of a powerful waterfall. “The Tree of Life” exists in those little-known spaces where words lose their power and visual images exist in their original form. The axis of this film is the story of an American family that goes through mournful losses and happy reunions, inspiring discoveries and painful mistakes. Events in the feed are shown in a non-linear and poetic way.
The stunning nature shots that fill this film are accompanied by words of wisdom that are heard behind the scenes. Here on the war I often remember one of these aphorisms “Without love, life flies in vain.”