Constructed with the same patient sorcery and elliptical menace as director Sergei Loznitsa's previous art-ordeal, My Joy, the WWII saga In the Fog opens with a tracking shot through the 1942 equivalent of a Bosch painting. For almost four minutes, Loznitsa's camera prowls after three Nazi-arrested locals as they're led to the gallows through an occupied Belorussian village, past children and weeping babushkas and relaxing Germans. It's a whole film in one bite, shuffling points of view and catching details, eventually settling on a cart stacked with picked-over cow ribcages. The hanging is the pivotal action that sets the film's dominoes tumbling, and we don’t even see it in the tumult. Immediately we're at the door of a farmhouse with Burov (Vlad Abashin), a local resistance fighter come to execute his erstwhile friend Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy). Because Loznitsa does not truck with exposition, we only find out why deeper into the film: Sushenya was the fourth prisoner due to be hanged, but he was freed for reasons unknown, a condition that automatically convicts him as a collaborator. Soon Sushenya finds himself cornered in the forest, surrounded by German forces, with no place left to go. The story's despairing philosophical position—what should you do when life seems decidedly worse than death, and may get worse still?—can be crushing. The odyssey through the Eastern Front wilderness proceeds into As I Lay Dying terrain, and Loznitsa makes sure the physical trial stays close to the ground and leaves bruises, using long takes, hardbitten, hyperreal imagery and, reportedly, only 72 cuts. A better anti–summer blockbuster is hard to imagine.
Sergei LoznitsaVladimir Svirski, Vlad Abashin, Sergei Kolesov, Nikita Peremotovs, Julia Peresild, Kirill Petrov, Dmitrijs Kolosovs, Stepans Bogdanovs, Dmitry Bykovskiy, Vlad IvanovSergei LoznitsaHeino DeckertStrand Releasing