Eye For Film >> Movies >> Klondike (2022) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
With talk of potential war in Ukraine back in the nightly news as of February 2022, the arrival of Maryna Er Gorbach's drama set in the shadow of the 2014 conflict in the Donbas region, which deservedly took home the directing prize in the World Dramatic Competition at Sundance, is particularly timely.
Her film is all about the constant threat of conflict in the middle distance and the way that it can split the lives of those going about their everyday business without warning - just like the Malaysian Airlines plane that crashes out of the sky on July 17, 2014, the smoke from which can be seen rising towards the horizon from the farmhouse the heavily pregnant Irka (Oksana Cherkashyna) shares with her husband Tolik (Serhi Shadrin), a piece of fuselage even closer to hand. Although, at first glance their home seems to be in the middle of nowhere, emphasised by the fact that plans are afoot to take Irka to a hospital elsewhere, the conflict is brought home by a stray mortar in the night, which blows out one wall of their house.
Gorbach presents war as an insidious and dangerous beast, prowling about the edges of people's lives, swiping at those who aren't directly involved just as easily as those who are. On a family level, it is also causing conflict as Irka's Ukraine-loyal brother Sanya (Oleg Shevchuk) is increasingly at odds with his brother-in-law over the help he gives to the separatists. That neither Irka or Tolik have any particular desire to become embroiled in taking sides is besides the point as Gorbach suggests, in war, there is no safe neutral ground.
Using long takes and panning shots that emphasise the proximity of conflict to the everyday, the writer/director and her cinematographer Sviatoslav Bulakovskyi capture both the brutalities and the absurdities that can occur when normal life bangs up against the otherness of conflict - such as Irka and Tolik cleaning their living room despite the missing wall. Gorbach's film has a constant tension, not just because of the impending birth, but because the possibility of death is so close to hand, emphasised by the trauma of visitors who are coming to the plane crash site. Moments of discord often also unfold from a distance away, emphasising how small and vulnerable Irka and Tolik's lives are in the great big scheme of events, not to mention that of their unborn child. Slowly problems on the homefront and the bigger warzone come to a boil and, like Irka, all we can do is watch.Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2022