March 25, 2021

Valentyn Vasyanovych’s Atlantis is a stunning meditation on war and its aftermath

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Atlantis, an award-winning film from Ukraine (Valentyn Vasyanovych: director, screenwriter and cameraman) is a dispassionate, penetrating, slow-moving, artistically and cinematically stunning meditation on war and its aftermath set in war-torn Donbas.

The year is 2025. Ukraine has won the war. The hard work of reconstruction by army personnel and civilian volunteers is underway. The protagonist, a former soldier who fought here, is now clearly wedded to this land. He stays on and struggles with his friend’s severe PTSD, ultimately finding work (and meaning) in the clean-up operation.

Volunteers scour the land for bodies of the dead soldiers left behind that are scattered throughout the landscape. The corpses are transported to a local forensic analysis center set up to identify and catalogue them. Each is given a decent burial in a cemetery now in full bloom on this desecrated land – the Ukrainian dead in one section, the Russian in another.

This is a deeply humane story – masterfully, movingly and artistically filmed – about devastation, PTSD, renewal, recovery – and hope. All the characters shown are actual people at their work. The film does not include professional actors.

The film was a winner at the Venice Film Festival, acclaimed at the Toronto Film Festival and a great favorite in Scandinavia and especially in Japan, where the memory of WWII is very much alive. The film was chosen for screening at the Lincoln Center Film Festival Series.

Don’t miss it. The film can be accessed online through Grasshopper Films, $12 (Registration required).

For additional information about the film, readers may contact Yuriy Shevchuk, director of the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University, at sy2165@columbia.edu.