A commercial flop at the Russian box office, where it was dismissed as being too dour and languid, In the Fog certainly demands your full attention throughout its two-hour runtime. Yet, for those willing to put in the legwork, the rewards are bountiful. It’s difficult to recall an arthouse effort this year that looks and sounds as good, with regular Cristi Puiu/Cristian Mungiu DoP Oleg Mutu overlaying an otherworldly quality upon the treacherous, fog-enshrouded woodlands, whilst a menagerie of bird species call out ominously overhead. Several flashback sequences depict the men’s past travails, shot largely over-the-shoulder to draw us into both our characters and our environs – with one eye always on the look-out for danger.
Of the lead triumvirate, it’s perhaps the simmering Abashin who just comes out on-top, though Loznitsa appears intent on giving each of his central characters the backstory they so duly deserve. Assumptions and preconceptions made of each man begin to gradually crumble as we see the key life events that have shook them from apathetic, subordinate slumber, only to find themselves hunted like animals by both Nazi overlords and Belarusian lapdogs. As Sushenya, Burov and Voitik look to regain their own sense of morality whilst entrenched in a war-ravaged swamp of amorality, the line between friend and foe shifts with supreme unpredictability.
One of the most accomplished and subtly devastating world cinema titles released in UK cinemas this year (to date), Loznitsa’s In the Fog sheds what light it can on the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe, bringing together three deeply personal tales of hardship and loss into a compelling narrative of deceptively grand proportions. Now two-for-two, the ever more impressive Loznitsa may soon find himself in the swelling ranks of Europe’s filmmaking elite; on this evidence, at least, his seat at the top table will have been more than earned through blood, mud and defiant tears.