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The Ascent


Images courtesy of International Film Circuit
The Ascent
Larisa Shepitko, 1976
Tue, Nov 29, 2011 7 PM
The New York Times calls this last film by Larisa Shepitko, a talented and intriguing Soviet filmmaker of the 1960s and 1970s, “extraordinary…rich in moral complexities and spiritual underpinnings, filmed with a blend of brutal realism and a lyricism that at crucial moments passes into pure abstraction.”

Set during WWII, The Ascent follows two Soviet partisans as they search for food and supplies while grappling with the bleak winter in German-occupied Belarus, treacherous collaborators, pursuing Nazi soldiers, and the balance between friendship and patriotism. The film won the Golden Bear (top prize) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1977. (111 mins., 35mm)

Shepitko (1938–1979), who was originally from the Ukraine, was a student of famed Ukrainian director Alexander Dovzhenko (Earth) at the Soviet government cinematography school in Moscow. She was a few years behind Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Solaris) as a student there, and like him, she sought to forge new filmmaking approaches that departed from both the revolutionary montage of Sergei Eisenstein other filmmakers of the USSR’s early years and the Soviet Realism favored under Stalin. Shepitko, like Dovzhenko, was able to infuse convincing realism with evocative poetry and subjectivity. She was tragically killed in a car accident on the way to the set for her next film after this one, at a moment when she seemed on the brink of international fame.