Blockade (2006)

Despite the lack of narration to contextualise the historical footage, Loznitsa’s approach of letting the picture paint a thousand words convincingly shows us the abject reality of millions of Russians who suffered greatly during the devastating Leningrad blockade of WWII.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,401

Dir. Sergei Loznitsa
2006 | Russia | Documentary | 51 mins | 1.33:1 | No dialogue
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some disturbing scenes

Plot: The longest siege during World War II was that of Leningrad, which lasted for 900 days. Comprised solely of rarely seen footage found in Soviet film archives, Blockade re-creates those momentous events through the sounds and the images of a slowly dying city.
Source: Antipode

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Leningrad Blockade; WWII; Soviet History
Narrative Style:
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

I read a comment somewhere that a film like Blockade would never have made it to any mainstream history channel.  That’s very much true, though it is not indicative of the film’s quality but that it serves little context at all in the experience of seeing it. 

Whatever context there is mostly comes in the synopsis—that this is a piece about the Leningrad blockade of WWII, with no words or music, just sounds and images of a dying city. For those familiar with the work of Sergei Loznitsa, Blockade wouldn’t come as a surprise. 

Made up entirely of historical footage with a soundscape recreated from scratch, the film shows us the abject reality of millions of Russians who suffered greatly in one of the 20th century most devastating genocides. 

Many died from extreme starvation and we see dead bodies slumped over on sidewalks.  Water is scarce yet snow is everywhere in the unbearable wintry conditions. 

As the saying goes: a picture paints a thousand words, and in Blockade, each image is not just a record of an unimaginable past, but a testament to the resilience of the common Man. 

This is, to me, more engaging than The Trial (2018), despite the lack of dialogue or narration.  While I’m not an expert in history, cinema has brought me closer to world history than any teacher could ever dream of. 

Films like Blockade may not be for everybody, but they are incredibly important artefacts of a bygone era.  Loznitsa does an excellent resurrection job, giving us yet another eye-opening documentary that shines a light on a dark but often-ignored part of Soviet history.

Grade: B+


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