City Of Ruins

City Of Ruins


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

These days, we are used to seeing images of ruined cities. They take two principal forms. There are the ruins on the television news, close-up slices of shell-shattered buildings in Syria or Lebanon, dust-covered people hiding nearby, bombs going off in the background. Brutal, but, in their intimacy, missing any real sense of scale. Then there are the ruined city vistas of dystopian cinema - vast, bleak, daunting, but safely fictional.

In City Of Ruins, these two forms collide. There is no spoken narrative here, no soundtrack of shells and bullets, just a gently gliding journey across Warsaw in the aftermath of the Second World War. It's animated, of course (though it scarcely looks it), but painstakingly recreated from photographs taken at the time, every deail repesenting a real life tragedy. Here there are none of the comforts of fiction and the enormous scale of the devastation - along the river, across the once crowded city blocks - is awe inspiring. Only at the end, through subtitles, are we told of the human loss all these hollow ruins represent. Even after what we've witnessed, this comes as a shock.

A simple idea delivered with a punchy electronic soundtrack, this is a surprisingly effective form of comment on the horrors of war. In the absence of an immediate human connection, the city itsel becomes a character, and you'll find yourself relating it to cities where you've lived or travelled. It is perhaps a weakness of the film that there are no images of Warsaw before or after to compare it with. We see a corpse without having seen it alive, and can only imagine the effort of rebuilding. Whilst I was watching this film, a building collapsed in Cairo, killing three people and trapping a further eight. Every such incident is a tragedy. To see hundreds of buildings shattered like this is startling, despite our modern familiarity with portraits of war.

In its simple elegance, City Of Ruins is a fitting memorial to Warsaw as it was before and to those who died there. It's a reminder of the fragility of civilisation, with just a single bridge left fully intact, spanning the Vistula and enabling people to go on with their lives.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2012
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Poland's first digital 3D re-creation of the city of Warsaw, destroyed in the Second World War.

Director: Damian Nenow

Writer: Damian Nenow

Year: 2010

Runtime: 5 minutes

Country: Poland


playpoland 2012

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