In the Fog Screen 17 articles

In the Fog


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  • Loznitsa’s previous film, My Joy, was notable for its formal daring and structural gamesmanship, but In the Fog skews much more traditionally festival-elegant, juxtaposing lengthy tracking shots as the men walk or ride through dense forest with locked-down simplicity when they’re at rest. The story is simple, arguably too simple....

  • In the Fog is quite nice to look at—most of it unfolds in the picturesque Latvian forest where the film was shot—even as Loznitsa’s authoritative hand removes much of the beauty present in Mutu’s delicate photography. When the film reaches its risible climax... the boundless austerity takes on the air of tragicomedy gone awry.

  • Two hours of trudging, In The Fog moves at the pace of its exhausted trio’s trek. Any Russian film with lots of wind is inevitably at least glancing at Tarkovsky, but this breeze isn’t sensual or exciting, just an irritating constant that can’t be escaped... Rhythmically smoother than the lurchingly nihilistic My Joy, In The Fog finds Loznitsa pinning down an assured narrative groove.

  • For a while, [In the Fog] is mysterious and gripping. The whispery sounds of the forest impart a lulling yet tense sensation, as if death could come from anywhere at any moment... But obviousness sets in when the film begins flashing back to the men’s lives before their current dilemma. The initial strangeness wears off as the narrative rhythms become more predictable—enter past, return to present, repeat—and the clichéd existential metaphors pile up.

  • In the Fog doesn’t go as far [as My Joy], but it does impress with its dramatic precision and focus on three men involved in a complex game of blame-taking, revenge-killing and misunderstood motives amongst Byelorussian rebels. It also features the power and thrall of Oleg Mutu’s characteristically intense widescreen cinematography, which Loznitsa uses to frame and imbue his plan-séquence stagings with a steady beat toward doom.

  • Here, the director of the recent My Joy, a bilious road movie that consisted mostly of detours, works with an all-too-clear formal symmetry, fleshed out by characters who essentially function as stand-ins for varying degrees of core-principle durability, as in a fable or a dead-on-arrival joke. But as it shows an already grim scenario growing still more so, this film does approach the punch-to-the-gut thrust of the earlier one...

  • Perhaps the obvious point of comparison for In the Fog, given the endless melancholic long shots in the woods, is the work of Andrei Tarkovsky... But unlike Tarkovsky, who left words unspoken for his characters, Loznitsa occasionally writes his ideas too explicitly in the film's dialogue, though he makes up for this by deftly employing some ironic symbolism elsewhere.

  • If the movie has a star, it may be cinematographer Oleg Mutu, the Romanian who lensed “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.” Even when the pace wanes, the images are still gripping.

  • Stately pace + glib hand-wringing (the 'Fog' is the Fog of War, fyi) = instant pretentiousness, but Loznitsa does have a knack for the simmering violence behind every pause and pleasantry, ditto the paranoia that infects people in wartime ("This is not what people do," says someone despairingly, caught in a spiral of mistrust and betrayal).

  • The film slowly builds, never reaching a traditional war film climax, but instead stokes equally potent flames as Sushenya delivers a gut-punching final speech before having to choose between honor, friendship, and and his own mortality. It’s a mature move by a mature filmmaker, still only two films deep into what looks to be very promising new direction.

  • The heavy tragic faces here, the sorrowful contemplation of our collective lot and the absence of levity of any kind all adhere to national stereotype to a degree that some will find wearing. But the intellectual range is vast, and the images and performances stirring beyond the customary standard. In its thorough meditation on man’s moral place, and its beautiful depiction of one version of life’s trial, lies this film’s joy.

  • As a nightmare of revolving war-film possibilities, In the Fog explores how quickly a character’s trajectory can evolve within such a terrifyingly fluid space. Maybe that’s why its deeply cynical ending doesn’t feel entirely hopeless. Even though the rigors of war are relentless and uncompromising, there are small moments of peace hidden within these tragic compositions, reminders of togetherness that, no matter how fleeting, have to count for something.

  • Loznitsa is still intent on portraying mankind as a writhing, impotent mass of dubious morality and wretched cruelty—life as one long cautionary tale of human folly with a series of inevitably tragic ends. But with In the Fog, he allows his characters good intentions. The film is the director’s big reveal, a glimpse past the steely façade... of My Joy—an expression of his overarching cynicism as a thinly veiled hope for humanity, not a battle cry in favor of its extinction.

  • More accessible and less stupefying than My Joy, In the Fog has the inevitability of an avalanche, and only our overfamilarity with Nazi-tribulation scenarios, and perhaps its excessively punctuated ending, could slow it down. A better anti-summer blockbuster is hard to imagine.

  • The world and its choices are often cruel, but for all the devastations visited on the characters, Mr. Loznitsa is searching for the human good amid a human catastrophe. The stunning opening scene — a probing sweep around a Bruegel-like tableau of people, dogs and mud — puts that search into cinematic terms and also telegraphs the narrative’s circular form. We go on, circle back, go on.

  • This is neither a tale of redemption (its largely unsullied main character, despite the trials he is put through, is not in need of such things) nor is it a portrait of improbable, Christlike goodness. The film is grounded in the material world, in recognizable human behavior and interaction; its ironies are those of the everyday, delineated in clean, compassionate storytelling strokes that don’t sacrifice complexity for clarity.

  • In an era when vague is en vogue—when filmmakers are more likely to find acclaim for posing big questions than for trying to answer them—In the Fogstands out for being resoundingly unambiguous. Everything—camera style, performance, structure, pacing—is in the service of establishing and contextualizing Svirsky's dilemma.

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