Director Aleksey Fedorchenko, comes back this year with his new film titled Anna’s War. It is still obvious how he is using image to convey many feelings. The director is not interested in dialogue, even minimal as was the case in his 2010 drama Silent Souls; we barely hear a word in Anna’s War, but with his focus on the cinematic language, dialogue is not needed here.
The film depicts the story of Anna, a 6-year-old girl, whose Jewish family are all killed by Nazis, just beside her. Anna miraculously survives, and she manages to hide in a dusty chimney at a Nazi occupied place that seems to have been a school before the occupation. Later on, she continues observing what happens outside through small holes inside her shelter. Subsequently, Anna goes out at night searching for food and clothes to protect her from the cold weather, ending up with a friendly companion.
The first scene of the film starts only with sounds as we hear bullets, bombs – typical war sounds — and there is only darkness. Then the picture appears: we discover corpses or even parts of them, their hands, their legs, all crossed together forming a trap. Inside this trap, a beautiful young girl opens her eyes; she seems exhausted and stunned at the same time.
What makes the opening scene so powerful is the absence of the footage while we hear the war sounds. This leaves the scene to the audience’s imagination, considering that our imagination will summon the worst image of war. Another reason to praise the scene is the composition, trapping Anna through her family’s legs and hands – with their death, they have left her in an awful trap.
Another visual thing to notice throughout the film is the use of low-key lighting, which gives big shadows, and which in turn gives the feeling of anxiety, creating fear from what is going to happen. There are no Nazis and Anna is always wandering in the dark searching for food or discovering the place and trying to find the most suitable thing that can help her survive.
It is really a smart choice from the director not to use any dialogue, as this lets the audience concentrate more on the horrible situation Anna faces, and on how Anna survives despite her young age. This procedure also annihilates any sense of tranquillity while the emphasis is created through Anna’s screams at times when no one is around. At other times she cries, finding relief from what she is going through.
The film won the Best Director award at the Sakhalin International Film Festival 2018 where it was also nominated for the Grand Prix, and received a Special Diploma of the Jury at the Sochi Open Russian Film Festival 2018 where it was also nominated to the Grand Prize of the Festival for the Long-Length Film. Other nominations include the Dragon Award in the International competition of the Göteborg Film Festival 2018 and to the Youth Jury award at the Film by the Sea International Film Festival 2018.