Landscapes of Resistance
Marta Popivoda’s Landscapes of Resistance is as much a documentary as it is visual cinema as it is traditional storytelling, constantly weaving in features from the three different methods of filmmaking. The subject is Sonya, who is introduced sitting in a chair with a purring cat in her lap, ready for her voice to be heard. It is immediately obvious that Popivoda wants her audience to watch just as much as she wants them to listen: there are accounts of some of the most viscous acts that humans can commit against one another contrasted with images of poppies just before dusk or a closeup of a sleeping cat’s coat, each image melting into another so seamlessly that the viewer is compelled to rewind to catch where it changed.
Sonya tells her story, beginning with the growth of her interest in the communist party in Serbia on the cusp of Nazi occupation. She details her journey from curious student to committed partisan of the Yugoslav Communist Youth League (SKOJ), and recalls her experiences of love, loss and devotion to her cause, particularly as the Nazis descended upon her country. The stories are told in chapters, with breaks between showing Sonya, now in her 90s, being cared for. The aged, unassuming woman, who needs to be fed, does not seem a likely murderer of SS members or leader of an Auschwitz uprising.
Just when it seems that the horror Sonya lived through is of a distant time with no place in the present day, shocking letters written by Popivoda during the filmmaking process make it clear that this is in no way true. She notes the hatred, intolerance and racism that has come with the rise of fascism in today’s world, reminding the viewer that, although the Holocaust might long be over, the ideals behind it are still pervasive.
Landscapes of Resistance is a welcome change from the highly stylised Netflix documentaries, laced with dramatisation, police recordings and witness statements. Popivoda peels back the genre to the core of traditional storytelling, simply as words from someone who lived through something. The only form of documentation from Sonya’s life is the faded tattoo of her inmate number from Auschwitz, ingrained forever like this film on its viewers.
Landscapes of Resistance is released digitally on demand on 7th February 2021.
Watch a clip from Landscapes of Resistance here: