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Documentary “Eastern Front” at the Berlinale: With the camera into the war

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Summer light, white coffee house umbrellas on the main street in Kiev and in the middle a large, shot-up Russian tank. It’s August 24, 2022, Independence Day of Ukraine. You look at the screens in the background and the yawning, deadly emptiness of the tank cannon at the same time. Means: They are there, but defeatable.

On February 24, 2022, director Yevhen Titarenko volunteered for the medical service along with four others. Until 2014 he had a production company and a film school in Crimea, after which he went to the front as a documentary filmmaker, in a war that hardly anyone else called war. The “Hospitaliter” volunteer battalion has also existed since 2014.

We witness a frantic rescue drive across bullet-riddled streets in what feels like real time, followed immediately by a snowy morning in a vacated villa: snow that makes the world very quiet. If it weren’t for the dull explosions nearby. Someone steps in front of the door at 6 a.m. and says: These are ours! Gradually, the viewer becomes part of this group, their everyday life during the war, their conversations by the river in the summer, their meetings with their families.

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Young Men at War: Endangered, Dangerous Existence. It seems they only now know what being awake and what existence means. On the other hand, isn’t ordinary life in peace like an eternal half-sleep? Titarenko is the only one who seems rather sensitive, he often drives the ambulance and, as co-director, creates powerful contrasts.

Again differently, as it were closer than on the television pictures, we see the destroyed blocks of new buildings, streets in which there is no longer an intact house. And on the other side again and again the beauty of this country under the high summer sky. How should this film end, Titarenko is once asked. – Preferably on Red Square in Moscow, he says half-seriously when they are called to the next operation. And then, for the first time, there is music over the scene: Ennio Morricone. men at war.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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