Elem Klimov’s Proschanie isn’t on the level of Come and See, but it’s haunting enough. Klimov made/finished the film after his wife, Larisa Shepitko, died while location scouting it. What a loss. I’d have liked to see her version, especially as it would have been her follow-up to The Ascent, one of the greatest films ever made. The title translates to Farewell, and seems like to be as much related to the plot, as to Klimov’s farewell to Shepitko.
The film is about the village and island of Matyora. The inhabitants are being forced to leave their homes by the government, so it can be flooded after construction of a new dam.
The beginning of the film is maybe the strongest. Klimov’s images are hazy and wide. It’s quiet as a boat approaches the distant island:
When we get a closer look at the boat’s occupants we can more clearly make out their plastic coats:
It’s all pretty surreal and a nice way to set the stage for a film that isn’t so much about one character as it is about incidents and events. The specific identity of these guys matters much less than their sneaking approach and the way that Klimov frames things as mysterious and allegorical.
Two things that come to mind when I think of Klimov: his willingness to go to really aggressive handheld, as partially represented in these stills of a house fire and people running from it-
-and stark, tight-to-the-lens close-ups of characters with worn faces:
His style strikes me as so blunt (not on-the-nose), and Proschanie is no exception to that. The scattered narrative adds to that in a way here. Instead of having forward narrative momentum like in Come and See, Proschanie feels like sprawling glimpses combined with too-close-technique. It’s an interesting pairing that often feels raw.