Sergei Loznitsa’s Powerful Ukrainian Portrait

Sergei Loznitsa’s Powerful Ukrainian Portrait

The last time Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa made a documentary about contemporary events in his homeland was back in 2014: “Maidan,” a rigorously observational chronicle of the Euromaidan uprising in Kyiv, was both immediate and calmly detached. Eschewing overt narrative shaping or rhetoric for clear-eyed witnessing, it was thoroughly of-the-moment filmmaking that nonetheless felt built to last as a historical document. A comparable approach yields similar rewards in “The Invasion,” Loznitsa’s keenly awaited and patiently assembled response to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. A collection of stoic, straightforwardly shot and cumulatively wrenching vignettes from a country in crisis, doing its best to keep the lights on and hope alive, it acts as an effective sister work to “Maidan” — albeit one that, a decade ago, nobody wished would be made.

A recent Cannes premiere now making the festival rounds, “The Invasion” is hardly first to the topic: This year alone has seen an Oscar win for Mstyslav Chernov’s “20 Days in Mariupol,” while Sundance winner Brendan Bellomo and Slava Leontyev’s “Porcelain War” and Oleh Sentsov’s GoPro battle study “Real” join Loznitsa’s latest in the Karlovy Vary lineup. “The Invasion,” however, doesn’t set out to immerse viewers in the chaos of armed warfare, instead offering a view of everyday life continuing (in frequently compromised, disrupted fashion) through the conflict: weddings, funerals, religious gatherings, school classes, hospital sessions, and so on. Shot over the course of the last two years — not with Loznitsa present, but by multiple small crews around the country — the project resulted in 30 short films of varying lengths, woven by Loznitsa and his co-editor Danielius Kokanauskis into a national tapestry of mourning and resilience.

The film opens on its most solemn note, with an extraordinary 15-minute sequence detailing the formal…

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The post “Sergei Loznitsa’s Powerful Ukrainian Portrait” by Guy Lodge was published on 07/05/2024 by