Rokas and Inga, a young Lithuanian couple, are entrusted with a humanitarian mission, driving a van full of food and equipment to supply the Ukrainian army to the Donbass region in Ukraine. The two volunteers very quickly find themselves on their own, in this road movie in a war zone, sparse with initiatory encounters.
FROST is an implacable dive into the heart of war, at ground level, in an attempt to capture an often impalpable reality. Rokas is first struck by riot footage he watches in a YouTube video. A representation that the film tends to confront with the own experience of young Lithuanian volunteers. The director evacuates any form of spectacular to deploy his staging in a stifling naturalism, sometimes blurring the tracks with the documentary (some soldiers are real soldiers and the sets of the film were shot in the Donbass region). If the threat of war works, it is because it interferes with a naturalistic representation of reality.
The use of sequence shots thus makes it possible to install a latent danger which weighs on the general atmosphere of the film. An inevitable drama is constantly defused, continually sent back to the sequence that follows. Sharunas Bartas knows how to play with our nerves perfectly by meticulously measuring the duration of each shot and by instilling a rhythm specific to the film. A feeling of gradual immersion is evident in the checkpoint scenes, a recurring plot motif, increasing the intensity of the tension with each pass. The road on which the convoy is sinking resembles a funnel which inevitably leads to the front, a vice which is slowly tightening on our two volunteers. It is sometimes difficult to identify the deep intentions which motivate the characters to undertake such a journey. Rokas never affirms his decisions, he does not answer Inga’s questions about their itinerary or the meaning to be given to their journey. The young man seems carried away in a slow inertia that leads them to the ruined gates of Europe. The real driving force of this enterprise resembles a morbid fascination for a war that Rokas, failing to understand, wishes to experience.
FROST tells us of the impossibility of grasping the entirety of such an armed conflict. There is always a dichotomy between what is said, what is seen and what is experienced. The encounters which follow one another make it possible to explore different points of view in order to extract from them a truth from which the war continually eludes. The meeting with the group of journalists, locked in a setting that materializes their discrepancy with the reality of the events, highlights an impossibility to name, to identify, therefore to conceive the essence of this war. And even when the young Lithuanian finds himself close to the fighting, he sees nothing other than men who keep positions against an enemy who is still invisible. A fascination with images reverberates throughout the film. She wakes up with the YouTube video of the first riots in Maidan Square then passes into the photos of the journalist interpreted by Vanessa Paradis to finish in the videos that Rokas shoots with his mobile phone. The director always uses the same process to present them to us, they completely fill the frame to impose themselves on us, frontally. There is a desire to capture the elusive, in turn removing information filters and thus becoming its own measuring instrument.
The film is abrupt, as its name suggests, deliberately cold, testing and even disturbing. Like the character of Inga, the spectator is forced to accompany the plot until this overwhelming finale. Moreover, a sequence of the film fails to keep us away from the news of the director, recently accused of sexual assault. The factual proximity of the testimonies and the unfolding of the scene plunges us into a chilling malaise resonating like a terrible confession. A reality which, put into perspective with the work, leads us to wonder about the intentions of a director ready to project us with dread into his death drive.
• Original title : frost
• Achievement : Sharunas Bartas
• Script : Sharunas Bartas, Anna Cohen-Yanay
• Main actors : Mantas Janciauskas, Lyja Maknaviciute, Andrzej Chyra
• Release date : March 28, 2018
• Duration : 2 hours
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