Survive (2021) – film review

Clearly, black figures with human figures rush through the collapsed buildings. Their world is falling apart before our eyes, and the nightmare of war is reunited with reality. The opening scene of the animated documentary “Experiences” is associated with media messages from Ukraine, where thousands of our neighbors had an unimaginable tragedy. Although the film’s portrayal is from the 1980s civil war in Afghanistan, the brutal story tends to be repeated. The case of Jonas Poher Rasmussen today resonates most strongly with the situation outside Poland’s eastern border, but this universal story about the dramatic fate of refugees will never lose its relevance. The Danish director once described the journey of several people from South Asia to Western Europe, without touching the sentimentality and extreme pathos of Michael Winterbottom, once in “In This World”, which is reminiscent of real experiments. To find a safe haven, this transition leaves a lifelong mark and involves numerous levels of trauma. The protagonist’s confrontation with painful memories is at the heart of “Experiments”, but his present, painted in brighter colors, is equally important.

The director subtly combines animated reconstructions and documentary additions to fully reflect the experience of Afghan Amin Nawabi, who left his homeland with his family in 1989 and finally left for Denmark. Many years later, he decides to witness what happened during his childhood in Kabul, his teenage years in Moscow with fear and uncertainty, and his trip to Copenhagen alone. Thus, we follow a beautifully crafted sequence that recreates stories that show Amin’s youth and academic career and his maturity between his relationship with Dane Casper. The series of moving images is completed by the story of the protagonist’s influential first person.

“Survival” quickly becomes a self-healing journey into the past, which helps him deal with the traumatic, silent seasons of life. Forced to hide the truth about his journey with his family and Afghanistan, the nearly forty-year-old hero finally gets a chance to openly share with the director the details of the horrific, refugee journey. He remembers the dark events that once overwhelmed his imagination, but are now more aware and slowly subdued by mature thought. Mature Amin understands better than this teenage boy how, for example, Russian human smugglers have committed morally shameful acts against migrants, how much his older brothers have to sacrifice to give him a better future, and why degenerate political systems have dehumanized them. understands. subjects. He also criticizes more than his youth the enthusiastic reactions of refugees who traveled with him in the Baltic Sea, believing in naive help after encountering a large ship. Cool, tired newcomers and wealthy passengers followed each other behind invisible glass separated by cultural, social and economic barriers. Recalling that incident, Amin already knows that the cruise participants, who were interested in the unusual sight of migrants, preferred to keep the appropriate distance, rather than showing human gestures. A sense of alienation and objectivity accompanied him in many similar situations, influencing his distrust of the environment and his belief in the injustices that make up the world.

For a long time, there was such a gloomy, sometimes even shocking picture of a reality in which human life was of almost no importance, a stranger’s acceptance was rare, and each day brought an even greater dose to the hero and his relatives. from fear, intimidation, and helplessness. The director tries to imagine what Amin says, which means that “Survival” becomes a panorama of the brutal Afghan and Russian realities at the end of the last century. Initially, the scenes depicting the narrator’s childhood in Kabul are filled with a lack of apparent danger and a little carelessness and joy over the family’s stubbornness, but this is hampered by his father’s imprisonment for political reasons. Afghanistan is seen not only as a war-torn country, but also as a closed country, oppressed by the regime and equated with the homosexuality that Amin is slowly discovering. In turn, Russia, where it must flee with its relatives, is the real Wild East – a nascent capitalism that grows on the ruins of the Soviet empire, along with lawlessness, corruption and crime. The memory of the opening day of the first McDonald’s in Moscow is particularly remarkable, it looks colorful and positive, and is finally painted black by police intervention against his brother and an anonymous immigrant, Amina. On the one hand, there are documentaries of the crowd gathered in front of the restaurant, recording the whole event, and on the other hand, the animated extension of the scene exposes the savage, meaningless violence of officers against innocent women. The Moscow series unexpectedly resembles post-Soviet Russia in Alexei Balabanov’s “Brother.”

The darkness and pessimism leaking from the screen spoils the delicate portrait of Amin’s family, who are struggling to survive together and achieve their goals after many attempts. In “experiments”, family members are separated from time to time, but they never stop thinking about each other, guided by mutual love, care and hope for future unity. The range of experiences in which they participate should be impressive: from being terrorized and robbed by Russian police, to a massacre in a snowy forest and a boat ride on the rough sea, to a long wait for the possibility of passing. The border was full of people watching the series in a small apartment. The animated documentary is an appreciation of the protagonist’s selfless and determined behavior at various stages, and concludes with a reflection of Amin’s maturity to show them her homosexual identity. After all, apart from her disturbing refugee status, it is difficult to accept the feeling of being different and reconcile with it so that men are not fascinated. The theme of “leaving the closet” finds a surprising solution here, bringing the hero’s relationship with his relatives closer and gradually opening him up to a romantic relationship.

As for the family, the home theme that appears throughout the film is equally important. Amin fled the war-torn homeland, lost his home, and the need to rebuild it returned to his adult life. A place where a person can settle down, communicate with relatives and forget about problems is taken away from him by force. Rebuilding it into modern Danish reality, which guarantees stability and spiritual freedom, becomes a reality as a result of the protagonist falling in love with Casper. In the idea of ​​symbolic reconstruction of the house, Amin has a chance to completely shake the nightmares of the past. At that time, the title “experiments”, which means constant struggle with difficulties, will finally be “alive” itself, that is, the protagonist and other refugees will be a harmonious being in harmony with himself and the world around him. Thus, in the award-winning film, which is rightly compared to “Bashir and Waltz”, there is a ray of hope. Amen, do not run out until the end of a long, peaceful life.

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