Ashes in the Snow


Made for about $5,000, Ashes in the Snow (Tarp pilku debesu) is based on the novel Between Shades of Gray, which dramatizes how Lithuanians were treated by the conquering Soviets during World War II. Beginning with a calm day in a Lithuanian town in early 1941, the film focuses on the fate of a particular family when Soviet troops roll into town later that year. First comes the roundup to a holding prison, followed by a trip along with several others to serve hard labor in Siberia. Filmviewers learn that the father (played by Sam Hazeldine) has forged documents to facilitate exit from the country, so he is imprisoned, while his family is branded as traitors by association and later forced to sign a confession to be settled in Siberian camps. Later, possibly due to the daughter obtaining unauthorized paper for artistic sketches, the family is transferred with a few others to a camp in the Arctic, where the mother (Sophie Cookston) dies, and the two children (Bel Powley and Tom Sweet)are at the mercy of the commander of the camp, Nikolai Kretzky (Martin Willström). Most of the slow-moving film focuses on the agony of the arrest, detainment, train ride, living and working conditions, and the freezing conditions during the Arctic winter. Even Kretzky feels the pain as he is forced to mistreat those under his command. Director Marius Markevicius tries to provide a happy ending at the end, but filmviewers will not be satisfied. The Political Film Society, nevertheless, has nominated Ashes in the Snow as best film exposé and best film on the virtues of human rights and peace of 2019. MH