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M. Leary

The Ascent (1977)

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Here is another item I have been revisiting during this period of list-thinking. Larisa Shepitko's The Ascent is set in WW II Belarus, during Nazi occupation. If one did not know it was made in 1977, it would be hard to guess when Shepitko was working. The Ascent grabs formal and narrative traditions from every era of Russian cinema, layering overt Christian imagery and iconography over its otherwise spare narrative. I do not want to spoil the tension drawn out by increasingly clear allusions to canonical gospel images. But, it is a wild and terrible film - somehow lost to conversations about Christian imagery in cinema. Watching it again recently, The Ascent strikes me as a great companion piece to A Hidden Life.

Criterion has a beautiful edition, which looks to be streaming on their channel.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Michael, I watched The Ascent last year (Criterion DVD) and it's a fantastic picture. I'd love to read more about the Christian imagery in the film, as well as how/if Soviet control influenced the story.

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