No one is spared in Donbass, director Sergei Loznitsa’s scathing look at the (still ongoing) war in eastern Ukraine.
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In strict terms of craft, Donbass is an impressive achievement, but its heavy-handedness nevertheless feels inordinate.
Corruption and humiliation are the guiding forces of Donbass, resulting in a scathing portrait of a society where human interaction has descended to a level of barbarity more in keeping with late antiquity than the so-called contemporary civilized world.
Like the bullets and bomb blasts that punctuate the narrative, Donbass only sometimes hits its target, but even so, it’s clearly the work of a director with an angry message to get across, in an idiosyncratically caustic way.
Ultimately, Loznitsa builds up a portrait of a bitter clockwork world where the faces of the doomed are above all part of a landscape.
The film’s displays of humour give away to harsher scenes of brutality and intense moments where rural calm is suddenly disrupted by mortar explosions and transformed landscapes dotted with corpses.
Donbass is a flawed, but vivid achievement.