×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Anna’s War’

Idiosyncratic director Aleksey Fedorchenko's Holocaust tale of a small girl hiding in a chimney is visually striking but lacks credibility.

Director:
Aleksey Fedorchenko
With:
Marta Kozlova. (Russian, Ukrainian, German dialogue)

1 hour 14 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7817024/reference

Every filmmaker seems to think they can make their Holocaust movie different from the rest, yet almost all fall into the usual traps of emotional manipulation and sentimentalization, tripped up by the difficulties posed by the sheer banality of evil. Sadly, the whimsically idiosyncratic director Aleksey Fedorchenko and his distinctive storytelling techniques succumb to many of the genre’s pitfalls with this tedious tale of a 6-year-old Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis in a chimney. While shot in an interestingly subjective (though often murky) manner, with occasional moments of stark visual power, “Anna’s War” is more a patience tester than a poignant rollercoaster ride. Fedorchenko’s customary fantastic leaps of logic simply don’t work in this context, and the film will go down as a very minor entry in his career.

There’s a grim potency to the initial shots of naked, pallid limbs half-buried in freshly turned earth, made even more horrific with the realization that Anna (Marta Kozlova) is alive and needs to release herself from her dead mother’s arm in order to climb out of the killing field. A series of short scenes give nightmare-like flashes of what happens next: She’s in a peasant hut, ignored by its occupants, then dragged across a blasted field and over to a former school building, now Nazi regional headquarters. The script, by Natalya Meschaninova (“Arrhythmia”) and Fedorchenko fails to explain how Anna arrives in her hiding place in that building on a small ledge within a chimney flue, several feet off the ground.

A striking shot of her peering down into the fireplace, her little fingers grasping the ledge, gives her a haunting bat-like appearance; in another sequence, as she opens her mouth to let rain water quench her thirst, her tiny bones and pale taut skin make her seem more like a bird. She is a pathetic figure, already feral in her behavior as she glimpses people in the room through chinks in a mirror hanging against the cracked chimney-facing. From this perch she watches women flirting with Nazi soldiers (stereotypically cruel even to their dogs), collaborators and others using the room for reasons as unclear to Anna as they are to the viewer.

Each night she ventures out of the chimney to explore the building, though seemingly only one room at a time. There’s an art studio with écorché models and animal skeletons that would make most children shudder; instead she avidly drinks water from a jar used to clean paint brushes. She scavenges the crumbs from rat traps, sucks the glue paste from book bindings, and cleverly captures a pigeon in the rafters which she roasts over a flame. She even disembowels a taxidermied wolf and makes a cloak of its fur. Apparently the one kind of room not in this building is a bathroom, though surely the Nazi occupiers (and the students before the invasion) made use of the facilities somewhere.

That’s just one of many bothersome questions arising from little Anna’s two-year concealment. We’re meant to be impressed by her ingenuity, her drive to survive an unthinkable ordeal, yet why does she take so much time to explore the building? Why has she decided that remaining in the chimney, with the constant threat of starvation, is a safer place than risking the outside world? The answer clearly lies in Fedorchenko’s desire to milk sympathy out of this situation while using confined spaces, but it’s so patently false that each of Anna’s actions provokes incredulity rather than distress. By the time the little girl, mute throughout the film, finally breaks down and cries, there isn’t even a sense of relief. A phantasmagoric scene of a Nazi Christmas banquet, the tree decorated with glittering swastikas and the table boasting a goat skeleton as a centerpiece, may fit with the director’s penchant for the unexpected, but its oddity only underlines how out of place it is.

Visually, the film privileges a sensorial, subjective look, including p.o.v. shots as Anna stares out of the distorting fissures of her hiding place. This gloomy intensity suits the confining atmosphere in which Anna never truly sees the light of day, forming the most interesting element in an otherwise wearisome entry in the constant tide of Holocaust-themed films. Occasional snippets of dissonant music unnecessarily contribute to the overall bleakness.

Rotterdam Film Review: 'Anna's War'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Voices), Jan. 27, 2018. (Also in Gothenburg Film Festival — International competition). Running time: 74 MIN. Original title: Voina Anny.

Production: (Russia) A SAGa, Metrafilms production. (International sales: Media Luna New Films, Cologne.) Producers: Andrey Saveliev, Artem Vasilyev, Maxim Lojevsky. Co-producers: Anatoly Zakharov, Simon Vine, Mikhail Grachev. Executive producers: Olga Yuntunen, Dmitriy Vorobyev, Alexander Yashnik.

Crew: Director: Aleksey Fedorchenko. Screenplay: Natalya Meschaninova, Fedorchenko. Camera (color): Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev. Editors: Pavel Khanyutin, Herve Schneid. Music: Vladimir Komarov, Atsuo Matsumoto.

With: Marta Kozlova. (Russian, Ukrainian, German dialogue)

More Film

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

  • Michael Lynne

    Former New Line Co-Chairman Michael Lynne Dies at 77

    Michael Lynne, the former co-chairman of New Line Cinema who played a key role in shepherding “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has died at his New York home. He was 77. Lynne’s death was confirmed Monday by longtime business partner Robert Shaye, who told Variety that Lynne’s family had informed him of Lynne’s passing [...]

  • Marisa Liston

    Sony Veteran Marisa Liston to Lead Lionsgate Movie Publicity

    Lionsgate has named Sony Pictures veteran executive Marisa Liston to lead all feature film and motion picture group publicity and communications strategy. Liston, who departed Sony in late 2018 after 17 years, has been assigned the newly created title of head of global earned media and communications. She will oversee domestic and international feature film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content