for Cinetalk.net

Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas (Three days, Few of us, Corridor) filmography is an ode to unsettling minimalism. With Frost, Bartas ventures into the Ukrainian war.

A couple of insouciant young Lithuanians accept to bring humanitarian aid from Vilnius to Ukraine, without real understanding of what they are up to, until reality catches up with them.

Their relation and motivation being unclear right from the start, we get nearly no characters development, apart from the fact they are obviously very naive in taking this trip like an adventure. Bartas takes us on the road with limited background information. He uses close shots, no music. All along we are strangers to the conflict and it is difficult to understand where we are exactly, until it is too late. This was dubbed by various critics as an absence of dramatic build up. I disagree.

Bartas quiet minimalism and foggy situations lead us into an abyss. Like its characters (or occidental audiences and critics), he can’t pretend to fully understands this highly complex conflict (like too many directors sometime do with a war subject). Further more if the first half of the film is kind of quiet, the director demonstrates that you do not have to show much (he is pretty restrain) to expose horro. In the later section, which definitely takes a darker tone, the violence is palpable but not gratuitous. Frost displays a sense of decency, in tackling a difficult subject, that is quite honorable under the circumstances.

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