Berlin’s Treptower Park is home to a vast memorial to Soviet soldiers who died during the Second World War. But for the most part, director Sergei Loznitsa ignores the statues and the towering concrete structures. In his portrait of a commemoration day—held annually on May 9, the date Russians know as Victory Day— he focuses, without comment, on the decorative relief carvings and the crowds of people.
Loznitsa’s approach in this film echoes his acclaimed documentary Austerlitz, which observes the hordes of tourists visiting former Nazi extermination camps. But there’s one crucial difference here, and that’s color. The countless red banners and the colorful flowers laid at the memorial are all captured in a palette that's at once intense and subdued, like a faded old photograph.
These nostalgia-tinted images present people as crowds rather than individuals, but what we hear are frighteningly specific conversations. Behind this commemoration of the past, the nationalism of today is lurking.