The Flood Won't Come

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Flood Won't Come
"Ideas of war in the abstract and the tension between the necessity of an action and the action itself will go on to be explored throughout a film that mostly concerns itself with the horrors of war that happen away from the frontline."

Marat Sargasyan's The Flood Won't Come is a meditation on war, considering it from the fringes in all its banality but also showing the way that something often imagined to be happening "over there" in a far off place, could just as easily be happening on your doorstep, a short hop away from dinner with your family. The Lithuanian writer/director sets the scene for something altogether more metaphysical than you might expect from "a war film" as a drone flies over an icy, mountainous landscape in the film's opening moments until it reaches an isolated hut that seems to grow out of the mountain itself, where a man directly addresses the camera: "We had lost the war, everyone knew it. They still dropped the bomb."

Ideas of war in the abstract and the tension between the necessity of an action and the action itself will go on to be explored throughout a film that mostly concerns itself with the horrors of war that happen away from the frontline. Smaller stories within the larger campaign unfold as vignettes - including a mother asked to make a terrible choice, prisoners whose fate could easily breach international law and soldiers who find circumstances bring out their most animalistic tendencies. Elsewhere, dum-dum bullets are discussed like crafted works of art, their deadliness terrifyingly incidental to the pair who talk about them.

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The film's focal point, so much as it has one is an ageing and war-weary colonel (Valentinas Masalskis), whose apparent exhaustion has been accrued on battlefields a long way from home and now finds conflict has come home to roost in his own backyard. The film is infused with his fatigue, whether he is trying to avoid a set of unpleasant orders from above, keeping his soldier's baser tendencies in check or listening to the prisoners talk among themselves.

The Flood Won't Come is also bracing and inventive in shooting style. Cinematographer Feliksas Abrukauskas has a wealth of experience - including camerawork on Chernobyl and Tom Harper's recent War And Peace - and tackles everything from that opening drone shot to an eerie scene captured purely via night vision goggles, with finesse. Sargasyan also has an eye for a striking image, whether it's the metaphoric reflection of a family in a TV watching not others, but themselves, because its light has been extinguished by a bullet, or a striking tableaux emerging as if by magic and drawing on religious iconography. The arresting visual images help to cement the troubling psychological considerations of conflict in place so tightly, you may find they, like war itself, cast a long shadow in your mind.

Reviewed on: 23 Sep 2020
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A war-weary general oversees his troops close to home.

Festivals:

Venice 2020

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