I can say that Klondike, directed by Maryna Er Gorbach, is the most sensational movie I have watched in 2022. Especially the last 20 minutes of the movie will be remembered for many years. The film, which attracted much attention at the festivals it was screened, also brought questions. But this part is ironic. The fact that they ask the director why she shot this movie shows how correct the starting point of the director is. Although the occupation of Ukraine’s eastern border since 2014 has completely changed the lives of hundreds or even thousands of people, Europe regarded what happened as a casual event and did not want to take it seriously. So much so that even at the first screening of the film in Turkey, an audience said that she did not know that the events were so serious. I think we need to rewind what happened. Only then we can understand the film much better.
When Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, Russia was disturbed by this situation, and for 30 years, they fell like darkness on Ukraine’s rightful independence. No matter how much Ukraine tried to stand up and become a strong country in this process, it could not reach the peace and prosperity it sought due to the pressures of Moscow. The parties had come face to face many times. Russia tried to solve its purpose through political methods, with the names it placed in the Ukrainian parliament and even in the presidential seat. They have been successful in this regard for many years. But the people got tired of these political wars and revolted. Realizing that it could no longer find a solution with political games, Moscow put its plan B on the stage: Civil War. Ukraine won this match, which led to terrible stories in the squares. As a result, Moscow’s puppet Yanukovych fled to Russia. Going to a new election, Ukraine gave its message clearly and unequivocally by electing Zelensky, who adopted western thought, with over 70% of the vote. However, this message did not please Russia. Thus, Russia played its final trump card: The invasion. The fire of the ongoing invasion has been burning since 2014. After 8 years, Europe, at last, said “something is going on” when Putin began to threaten almost everyone living. The invasion is still an event that the whole world talks about and that inevitably affects the economy of every country. When the tip of the thorn touched everyone, people understood the seriousness. However, as Maryna Private Gorbach said, these events are not new; they have been around for a long. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Let’s briefly touch on the plot of the movie… In 2014, a civil war broke out in Ukraine. The pro-Russian parties in the country begin to fight on behalf of Russia. Russia officially declares war by bringing its own army into Ukraine. In this process, we are watching the experiences of a couple living on the Donbas border as a guest in their house. Although the couple who is expecting a child does not want to be a part of this war, the choice is not in their hands. Neighbors, who had spent time together until yesterday, took sides enough to drop bombs on them. The army is gradually approaching their home, and Whether they want to or not, they are dragging into a dilemma in which they will have to take sides.
Klondike gives a lot to talk about. But first of all, I would like to touch on the technical side of the film. Maryna Er Gorbach presents one of the most amazing cinematography I’ve seen in a long time. While watching the movie, I felt like a critic watching Nuri Bilge Ceylan in Cannes. The choice of “loop” in camera use, exquisite framing in wide plans, magnificent views, and especially the shadows of the clouds were exquisite. Astonishingly, a film whose purpose is to describe the micro-results of the civil war has such impressive cinematography. It’s obviously a big plus.
The purpose of the movie is clear. To show the swamp into which the Ukrainian people have fallen. However, there are a lot of details in the film, especially for those who are interested in sociology and politics. Regardless of the plot, anyone who watches will only see a family caught in the middle of the conflict. But Klondike is much more than this conflict. I would like to talk about a few details that caught my eye. I’m sure the director has already used these details specifically. Frankly, I haven’t seen a director who knows what she’s doing so well in a long time.
First, we need to focus on the character of Sanya, the neighbor of Irka and Tolik. When Putin incited the Russians in Ukraine, thousands of people started a civil war with the hope of being Russian citizens again. Sanya is one of the parties to this civil war, one of the initiators. There is a phrase Sanya said in the movie, which you can encounter in all politically corrupt countries.
“When we move to Russia, we will live like kings.”
Many societies, including Turkey, are being deceived by the hope of future prosperity. Sanya also thinks that with Russia’s capture of Ukraine, everyone will achieve prosperity. He believes this because he is tired of the troubles of living in a poor country. But the realities of Russia are apparent. It is clear as day that Russia, which has ultimately captured the Crimean side, has disrupted its current order and damaged its economy, let alone reviving Crimea. Unfortunately, this unrealistic belief of the people, whose dreams are to live like kings, is one of the most precious weapons of dictators like Putin.
Another detail is Tolik’s character and his mediocre individuality. In his movie Loveless, Andrey Zygyntsev tried to explain the difference between men and women in Russia. He was trying to show the radical decisions made by women due to the passivity of Russian men and the children who were wasted among these radical decisions. The same situation exists in Ukraine. It is a fact that men are pretty passive around women. That’s why the director dedicates the movie to women, and a baby girl is born at the end of the film. The fact that Tolik is thinking about alcohol and sex even while it is raining bombs on his head and that he couldn’t do anything without directions from Irka seems evident in the movie. Precisely for this reason, a girl is born at the movie’s end. Despite all kinds of difficulties and male oppression, she wins the war of coming to the world. There is actually a little irony here. Yulia Tymoshenko was with Yanukovych, who came claiming to make Ukraine western. Tymoshenko wanted to challenge the illegal business in the country and end bribery. However, Tymoshenko, who got in the way of Yanukovych, was imprisoned. Years later, Tymoshenko was released from prison after Yanukovych fled to Russia.
Another interesting detail is the soldiers. Those interested in politics and following the invasion process know that most of those fighting on behalf of Russia are Chechens. At the movie’s end, Chechens also come to Irka and Tolik’s house. Known for seeing war as sacred, Chechens do not treat Irka and Tolik as human beings. It is evident in every sentence they make that they are animals far from civilization. Everyone who follows the issue knows and sees that this nation, which continues the war for Putin and Russia, plays a significant role in today’s invasion.
The movie does not contain any message. It doesn’t offer a solution either. It shows how a family just wants to live peacefully at home and becomes involved in the war against their will. They are forced to take sides. Even if they want to escape, they cannot escape because the roads are blocked. They have to be part of the growing flame one way or another. In the movie, we only watch a family. This fire engulfed thousands of families and destroyed them or completely changed their lives. Unfortunately, these events came about because of a state that has been involved in another country’s domestic politics for 30 years. One day, they found that their neighbors were enemies when they woke up. They had to pull guns at each other. Those who started this war thought that they would live like kings when it was over. Today, even the king himself is about to fall.
To sum it up… Klondike is a sensational film, especially in its last 20 minutes, that tells about the first days of the occupation in Ukraine, which has been going on since 2014. It has affected the whole world today. And do not forget, at the beginning of the movie, it is written that the story is inspired by a true story. Like I said, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The film, which fascinates with its Nuri Bilge Ceylan-like visuals as well as its sharp story, is a wonderful film visually and narratively. It deserves all the praise not only for the story it dares to tell but also for its design.
Cast & Crew
director: Maryna Er Gorbach
writers: Maryna Er Gorbach
starring: Oksana Cherkashyna, Sergey Shadrin, Oleg Shcherbina
UKRAINE-TURKEY | 2022 | 100 MINUTES |