To start, I want to begin with the negatives and say that the fact of this film being slow moving just doesn't do it justice. I felt like there were many unnecessary shots that were taken, which could have been filled with scenes that were a bit more interesting and revealing. I am a huge fan of the hidden art in movies, but I really didn't see anything, let alone see an interesting storyline. I felt that it was all over the place, in which I would find myself many times to be confused. Maybe it's the fact that it has that Russian and Ukrainian culture of film tied to it, or maybe I'm spoiled in the sense of being an American and watching films that have an actual meaning.
Never having been to the Ukraine, this is exactly the kind of setting that I imagined it to be. Run down, raggedy, dark, depressing, and horrifying, all at the same time. It seemed like there was no hope for anyone to be saved or helped in their society. When the '18' year old prostitute thought she was being bought for her 'goods', she had no idea that the young lieutenant was trying to help her. And when she soon realized what he was doing, it left her to believe that there was no escape from her reality. It's almost like she was helpless, and we see that a few more times in the movie when two soldiers raid a house and kill a man, leaving the son all by himself. We see this again when the corrupt police officers take the Major from Moscow into custody for having a blown out headlight. He's helpless because he knows that he can't act out against them, which would leave him dead a whole lot sooner.
Visually, this movie was decent. The settings that were used I think portrayed Ukraine as an abandoned and lonely place where people struggle each day to survive. This was obviously what Loznitsa was aiming for when he wrote and directed the movie. I do believe that there could have been more edits, which would cut down on time and lack of interesting scenes. It may have sped up the pace, but that all depends on the director's vision.
For the positives, I do think that the acting was pretty good. I think that the direction of them by Loznitsa was perfect because the emotions they portrayed were spot on. It made us, the viewers, feel a little saddened because of the hardships and helplessness that they faced. We connected with them in the sense that we felt their pain and suffering in this time where you couldn't help but to think negatively. I also did like the framing and the shot takes that were used (not the length of course). We felt like we were there with the actors and actually in the setting.
I wouldn't recommend this movie, however, but it was good to see the harsh realities of Ukraine today.