Donbass

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Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Donbass
"Each successive scene hits you over the head with the ferocity of the action." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The latest exposition from the Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa examines the effects of the ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian government which is allied with the West and the Donetska People’s Republic backed by Putin. Order has broken down and civilisation is in danger of collapsing.

It unfolds in a series of loosely connecting vignettes with Orwellian overtones very much to the fore from the opening scene when we see actors being made up for a fake TV broadcast designed to show “explosions” being perpetrated by the “fascists” as part of a propaganda machine.

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Loznitsa demonstrates how chaos reigns in an area on the border with Russia which has been in conflict since 2014. Criminal gangs slog it out with Ukraine’s regular army and assorted others.

In one of the 13 scenes, an army captain is tied to a street light and subjected to abuse by locals who think he may simply be an actor. In another a man is hauled in to police headquarters to find his missing car - only to have it impounded for the good of the people. Then the sparks fly at a nightmarish wedding - before the action returns to the television set-up for a truly horrific finale.

Each successive scene hits you over the head with the ferocity of the action, leaving the viewer battered and bruised in the process.

Hopefully most audiences will emerge bludgeoned but unbowed by Loznitsa’s scathing and satirical portrait of a corrupt society.

Reviewed on: 13 May 2018
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In the Donbass, a region of Eastern Ukraine, a hybrid war takes place, involving an open armed conflict alongside killings and robberies on a mass scale perpetrated by separatist gangs.


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