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Donbass review - an epic waste of time

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From director Sergei Loznitsa comes the black comedy Donbass, a crude and harsh place where war, famine and massacre are the norms.

Image Credit:Eureka Entertainment: Donbass Film

In the Donbass, a region of Eastern Ukraine, a hybrid war takes place, involving an open armed conflict alongside killings and robberies on a mass scale, perpetrated by separatist gangs. Located in a nation under occupation, we are relentlessly exposed to the levels of carnage, destruction, death and chaos that all happens in land under an unjust rule and dictator occupation.

Constructed from 13 separate “episodes”, the film Donbass is certainly a unique take on one of the most disturbing and threatening displays of contemporary conflicts. Director Loznitsa supposedly watched amateur videos posted on the internet, then decided to make his own screenplay. You can undoubtedly tell that this is the case, as the film is enthusiastically and terribly acted, with no clever or coherent storyline to save it.

 

We witness racism, sexism, murder, abuse and absolute poverty, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. In both the start and the end of the film there is graphic footage of bus explosions with multiple dead and many wounded, and yet those unaffected seem to carry on, life as normal. Nobody stops to help. Nobody seems to care. Perhaps there is humour in this, but It seems I’ve failed to find it.

 

Image Credit:Eureka Entertainment: Donbass Film

Because the story follows 13 different episodes, you are not able to follow along with a certain character or plot long enough to truly become attached. The idea that we are supposed to follow these bizarre storylines is a level of commitment that people are unwilling to give to anything that isn’t Game of Thrones. At least when there is death and carnage displayed there, it is genuinely impactful to viewers, and not needlessly tossed in simply to make sure we all know that this is a scary place. You don’t need 11 minutes of empty space and the sound of machine gun fire onscreen to make sure the audience is aware of that.

The loss of life, needless brutality and carnage are perhaps included within this film to prove a point that this is a hostile place and that violence occurs regularly in real life situations. Things like this happen all around the world... yet the film’s black comedy approach seems almost as if it is poking fun and basking in the ignorance of a very heavy topic. Whilst yes, it is important to not shy away from heavy topics like a dictatorship, issues surrounding free speech, unjust rule and the right to be free, the level of outright joy for violence that’s seen on-screen is more than a little unnerving. At one point there is a wedding scene, and when the well-wishers bless the couple, telling the newlyweds that they wish them many happy years and many children together, the new bride proclaims out loud that the first one will be a boy with a machine gun in his hands. Talk about disturbing on multiple different levels.

 

Image Credit:Eureka Entertainment: Donbass Film

The level of violence and gore on-screen is something that is perhaps better suited to a horror movie or some Liam Neeson action flick, and no doubt any one of those would include a better cast, with better calibre actors and a somewhat decent storyline. For those who relish in black comedy than I would consider giving this a try... for everybody else don’t waste your time.



Donbass will be released by Eureka Entertainment in cinemas nationwide and On Demand from 26 April 2019.




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