We begin by following the harrowingly pensive walk of three partisan rebels, approaching the stage where they will soon be hanged by the Nazis currently occupying Belarus. Although the execution is a penalty for those involved in the sabotage of a train, the one man to have avoided any punishment is Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy). This let-off leads to accusations of him being a Nazi collaborator, and he seems to be meeting a fateful end of his own when rebels Burov (Vladislav Abashin) and Voitik (Sergei Kolesov) come to his house at night and drag him away from his family, and into the woods…
Films set during World War Two are nearly always guaranteed to be affecting and intense, and it’s fascinating to see an interpretation of events and a story told from a Belarusian perspective, particularly as we have grown so used to seeing the war from the British angle. In the Fog is an atmospheric piece of cinema, with beautiful cinematography – richly enhanced with the quiescent woodland setting, where fog obscures the viewer’s vision while the sounds of birds singing is unrelentingly bittersweet, as an almost artificial optimism to cover up the sinister wrongdoings taking place across Europe.
The fog itself is incredibly effective, not only to cloud over some of the more disturbing sequences, providing a blanket for the audience – but it adds an ambiguity to proceedings, adding to the intensity of the title. You never quite know who is lurking behind the trees, creating enormous tension and casting the Nazis as the archetypal horror movie antagonist. However, In the Fog is an immensely subtle piece of filmmaking, as Loznitsa ensures that the viewer sees very little of what goes on, and instead it is alluded to – a far more effective technique.
The slow-burning nature of this film makes us feel uncomfortable and on edge at all times, as we are put in the same shoes as our protagonists; anxiously meandering through the woods, desperate for this whole debacle to come an end. Although slow in parts, this is evidently the point, as the various long-winded sequences that build up so gradually are certainly the most memorable and affecting of the piece. Meanwhile, Svirskiy is the stand-out performer, and within only seconds of being introduced to his character, you instantly know he will become an integral part of this story, as he just has this natural charisma and star quality.
In the Fog may not be the most enjoyable or light-hearted trip to the cinema, but this poignant and captivating production is no doubt a worthwhile one – particularly as you reach the end, with a hugely emotional and impactful finale that will stay with you for weeks to come, as a film that, despite the wait, has certainly proved itself to be deserving of its Palme d’Or nomination last Spring.