Review: Reflection – Vidblysk (2021)


Reflection – Vidblysk (2021)

Directed by: Valentyn Vasyanovych | 128 minutes | drama | Actors: Roman Lutskyi, Stanislav Aseyev, Oleksandr Danyliuk, Vasiliy Kukharskiy, Nadiya Levchenko, Nika Myslytska, Andriy Rymaruk, Andrii Senchuk, Igor Shulha, Dmitriy Sova

Who would have thought in early 2022 that Ukraine would face such a terrifying year? The war between Russia and Ukraine is still the most important daily news, but in 2014 there were already the first signs of a Russian invasion. Putin’s army then annexed Crimea and parts of the Donbas. This was reason enough for Ukrainian director Valentyn Vasyanovych to focus on the horrific reality of war in his new film ‘Reflection’. It’s probably the most relevant movie at the moment, despite being made over a year ago.

‘Reflection’ revolves around Serhiy, a Ukrainian surgeon who is separated from his wife. Together they have a daughter Polina (Nika Myslytska). Serhiy goes to the front in eastern Ukraine to help the wounded soldiers. There he is captured by Russian troops and tortured. It is used to check if the other tortured soldiers are still alive. He sees the most terrible things, like a man being beaten with a jackhammer. These gruesome torture scenes are lengthy and are presented in the middle of the frame. There is little clipping in the shots and there are no close-ups so that the viewer can focus on something else. Vasyanovych thus strongly portrays Serhiy’s mental and physical torture. In addition to directing the film, he also wrote the script and did the cinematography and editing. A great achievement.

Halfway through the film, the story turns and Serhiy has to deal with his traumas. He returns to society where his daughter Polina is waiting for him. Together they try to find out what is the purpose of the finiteness of life, something that Serhiy has been confronted with for a long time during his captivity. Polina collides with this after a pigeon flies into the window of Serhiy’s apartment. The contrast between the horrific images from the first half of the film and the subdued scenes from the second part is great. Both are depressing though, although that’s no surprise given the tone of the film. It must be said that the last hour gets a bit long-winded, especially because the first part had so much impact. In contrast, the camera work is consistently impressive. The camera hardly moves during the entire film and the composition of the shots are nicely symmetrical. The camera work is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, although the story and pace are the exact opposite. There is hardly any dialogue, but that fits in well with the film’s not very hopeful atmosphere. Show, don’t tell is what Vasyanovych uses to show the seriousness of a war.

With ‘Reflection’ Vasyanovych puts himself on the map, although perhaps not in the way he would have hoped given the circumstances in Ukraine. It is a gripping film with intense torture scenes that are very realistic, but does not manage to keep the viewer’s attention for the entire two hours. In any case, the work of Vasyanovych will be talked about for a long time to come.