The Invasion


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Invasion
"Loznitsa’s approach is quietly observational, capturing the quotidian goings on as they continue beneath the shadow of war." | Photo: Atoms & Void

The everyday endurance of the Ukrainian population in the face of Russian aggression is to the fore in Sergei Loznitsa’s latest documentary. Shot across two years, the director uses the rhythms of the changing seasons along with the universal waypoints of life - birth, marriage and death - to show how as the years continue to turn, the latter have become brutally disrupted by Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

This disruption is evident from the off as Loznitsa takes us into the funeral of multiple soldiers, the fact this isn’t a ceremony for just one person already feeling against the natural order. The youth of those involved is also notable, taken long before they should have been, with crowds of people outside the full church as well as in speaking to an entire community who have been rocked by loss.

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A wedding provides a happier setting, but the spectre of the war is there too in the awareness that young Ivan will soon be leaving his new wife Viktoria for the risky business of protecting his homeland. “A people is not an abstract notion,” someone says, and this is the sentiment that runs through Loznitsa’s film as he shows the concrete reality of those living and pulling together while trying to contend with constant threat.

Like his previous film about the 2013/14 unrest in Ukraine, Maidan, Loznitsa’s approach is quietly observational, capturing the quotidian goings on as they continue beneath the shadow of war. That shadow is there hanging over the care with which a soldier visiting his newly born child helps apply medicine, as we know he will soon have to leave and it’s evident on the side of a building, and lingering where a fridge and a cooker still stand sentry though the rest of the room has been blown away. The war's echoes can also be heard in the natural environment, as bird song is interrupted by the sound of distant gunfire.

Although it is less formally experimental than Oksana Karpovych’s Intercepted, The Invasion shares a similar approach in that the resistance of lives under fire is emphasised. It is present in the observance of the rituals of life, including baptism or a roadside stop off for a snack but also in the determined way that Russian literature is gathered from a bookshop for pulping. Loznitsa’s film may take a quiet approach but it delivers a clear call for the world to take notice and respond with solidarity.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2024
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Life in Ukraine under the shadow of war.

Director: Sergei Loznitsa

Year: 2024

Runtime: 145 minutes

Country: Ukraine, Netherlands, France, US


Cannes 2024

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