Heads Up Introducing is the event in the programme where somebody working in the Arts industry shares with the festival audience, the film that most inspired them. After an introductory chat everyone then gets to see the film, anticipation and speculation builds as people try to guess what film the guest will have chosen. Michelle Dee sinks into a squishy seat and awaits the announcement.
Vincent Regan is a film and TV actor, known for films such as 300, Troy and Clash of the Titans and on the small screen in Atlantis. However his first role was in crime drama Inspector Wexford with George Baker. Vincent fell in love with theatre at Drama School, but it was in a galaxy far far away at the tail end of 1977, that the young Vincent experienced his damascene moment, an experience that would shape his life and career.
’After seeing Star Wars I was completely hooked, it was so extraordinary, I went home got paper and pens and drew the whole film – so not to forget it.’
Fast forward ten years or so and Vincent is at the RSC, when his agent suggests that it is about time he did more television. Following Inspector Wexford, there came a slew of roles in popular shows including London’s Burning and Silent Witness, more recently Vincent has worked with Brenda Blethyn on Vera and he tells us, he has just finished a French film Normandie Nue, with Toby Jones.
Last year’s choice was One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, so what would Vincent choose? Remembering his time at Drama School and the allure of the rarified air of the Art-house cinema, Vincent explains how he developed a passion for Russian cinema. (Didn’t see that one coming)
‘It was around the same time of Oliver Stone’s Platoon, that I saw Elem Klimov’s film about the partisan war in Belarusia. I’ve seen it 10 times and I’d see it another ten times.’
Tonight’s film picked by Vincent Regan is the Golden Prize Award-winning Come and See.
‘The invasion of a village in Byelorussia by German forces sends young Florya (Aleksey Kravchenko) into the forest to join the weary Resistance fighters, against his family’s wishes.’
I often wonder why war films don’t get classified as horror. Come and See is utterly horrific. After watching you feel utterly spent: your mind assailed by the utter barbarism of war. What begins with a child playing at soldier on a beach, will become an almost unbearable assault on eyes and ears. During the first ten fifteen minutes or so I was expecting one kind of story, the boy with the beaming smile, suitcase and rifle, his father’s suit three sizes too big for him. There’s a moment early on where all that changes, and from then it just doesn’t let up until the last frame.
I am told that the film released in ’86, was made in as realistic a way as possible: with real armaments and explosions – left over from the previous war. The cinematography isn’t glossy, the editing not as slick as so-called blockbusters, it is perhaps because of this, the film feels so much more real.
There are sections of the film that I found incredibly hard to watch: the sight of the German Panzer Unit herding the townsfolk into a barn was one… those words … ‘To love and have babies’ another. There’s a scene with a stolen cow that conjures up images of that old Floyd cover and for a while there is respite, but the war is never far away. I can still picture and hear the round of bullets firing from his gun a day later. The use of newsreel footage in reverse – willing the Second World War to never have begun – remains very, very unsettling.
Would I recommend this film? Yes despite the harrowing subject matter and brutal sensory onslaught almost throughout, it remains an important film that pays tribute to the 628 villages and towns – along with all their residents – destroyed by the Germans in Belarusia in 1943. More important than the contrived heroic Vietnam epics, that are churned out of Hollywood, more so than Saving Private Ryan: despite the much lauded opening sequence.
After the screening, the audience – who saw it to the end – sat in the darkness stunned and in utter silence, as the theme tune played out on repeat…