Ukraine: Enemies in the Forest review – a hellish sight of pain you’ll never forget

Ukraine: Enemy in the Woods is an accurate, raw and devastating documentary about the Ukrainian Berlingo Battalion’s seven-week mission in November 2023. The stakes of Berlingo’s mission are extremely high. 99 soldiers must defend part of a region’s railway line that runs through Forest located northwest of KupyanskIf the Russians capture it, they will be able to resupply and potentially advance to Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city.

The film doesn’t explain the mission so much as shows it in visceral detail. You will see death and corpses; these images are unlikely to leave your mind. I have never seen war depicted in this way, so up close, grotesque and crazy.

We also see the battle from two other locations as soldiers discuss their experiences in interviews. The first is through a drone lens. Victor and Denis are drone pilots who fly explosives, or “gifts” as they call them, over the Russian military and their “gifts”. Foxhole”. When using an FPV (First Person View) drone, the pilot wears goggles and can directly see the explosive reaching the target. When the explosive explodes, the screen becomes blurry.

During one of the attacks, from the air, we see a Russian soldier entering a house. The drone followed him through the front door. A second drone captured the ensuing explosion. Ukrainian soldiers spoke candidly about the thrill of the attack and how they felt about the dead: “Why should we feel sorry for them?”

In their foxholes, Ukrainian soldiers ate, chatted, joked and prayed. They carried improvised explosives made of soap and gasoline. They removed rats from the food supply. They talked about the Russians, asking again and again – sometimes to captured Russian soldiers – why they came directly to the country.

The Ukrainians knew they were outnumbered. Maxim, 19, said more Russians were coming every day: “They just died, but they kept coming, coming, coming.” Company Commander Dmytro watched the battle live on his laptop said. : “We killed a thousand people and they sent a thousand more.”

Body camera footage brings another side of horror. We see decisions made in haste and desperation. The Ukrainians fired at Russian soldiers and the Russians fired back. Foxholes destroyed by Russian drones. We see men discovering the bodies of their comrades and then carrying their wounded comrades groaning in pain through the forest. There were so many corpses in the ice and snow. Hearing the rapid, panicked breathing of these people—hearing the adrenaline and fear—was so intimate, immediate, and powerful. This is deeply disturbing. And it should be so.

In just one hour, we get to know these soldiers who were supposed to leave weeks ago but who have no one to replace them. Natalia is a combat medic, the only woman in the battalion. She has a degree in veterinary medicine, but now she has a way with people. She said it was unbelievable that she “became emotionless at certain points in her life.” Vlad, a unit commander whose family fled Kherson during the Russian occupation, had risen rapidly through the ranks. He is “already 19 years old.”

The film is filled with unforgettable scenery. For a split second, a soldier examined a pile of bags stacked on the ground by flashlight. These were the property of the soldiers who left the camp. Many people were injured and some died. A battle started at night, in the dark forest. Only the sound of gunfire and the flash of explosions illuminated the place. The sky turns red. This is a scene from hell.

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But Berlingo’s soldiers often talked about the time ahead: what they would do and what they dreamed of in freedom UkraineSometimes these dreams are as simple as football and festivals and life being the same as before. They want a house, a dog, and spend time with the kids. In the midst of war, in the midst of all the loss of humanity, there is a glimmer of hope.

Many of us find ourselves scrolling through social media feeds, where images and footage of conflict and war are inadvertently dropped, turning these nightmares into swipeable moments amid holiday snaps and selfies. Documentaries like this insist on the opposite view. The candor of it – of course it is. But it makes the conflict real and requires you to observe, understand and remember what is happening, not far away.

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