Ukrainian director Valentyn Vasyanovych’s (his ‘Reflection’ is also being shown) remarkable Venice 2019 Horizons winner ‘Atlantis’ may immediately switch to exquisitely composed, live-action images of startlingly crisp, austere devastation but his film’s most potent motifs are all established in the eerie, alien opening: war, death, callousness, heat and dirt.
It is the year 2025, a title informs us, one year after “the war” ended. But as gruff, haunted Sergiy (Andriy Rymaruk) grubs a living delivering water in the ruined eastern Ukrainian countryside, it’s clear that the conflict polluted and ravaged the landscape almost as much as it did the PTSD-ridden psyches of its bellicose, suicidal combatants.
Whoever won, everyone lost. Whether the future it imagines turns out to be a cautionary tale or a soberingly accurate prophecy, ‘Atlantis’ is a powerful, essential lament for the humanity and the harmony with nature that are the first casualties buried in the shallow graves of war.