Blockade

Went to my first festival film today. Briefly:

Blockade is a documentary constructed entirely from black and white footage shot during the German siege of Leningrad during the Second World War. It is a social document rather than a narrative. What follows is an impressionistic account rather than a summation.

I was struck first by the normalisation of life in a foreign context, the width of the streets, the scale of the columns, the minarets, and the faces of the people.

The daily life of getting on with cleaning up the damage after a night of bombing and destruction; the way everyone, men, women and children, were involved in this process; the commonplaceness of dead bodies lying frozen in the street, people walking by with barely a glance; people pulling sleds with their possessions, refugees in a city under siege in the snow; families sourcing water from streams from broken pipes in shattered streets; at the start, German prisoners being marched through the streets, to a curious, growing, and mostly polite crowd, with some anger shown; contrasted with the mass hanging of (presumably) captured German soldiers before an eager, surging crowd, that the film ends on.

Leningrad was under siege for something life 500 days.

Somehow affecting, despairing, fascinating. The lack of narrative makes it elegiac. All in all, what astonishes is the pointlessness of suffering in wartime.

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