With its black-and-white scenes of young soldiers in trenches, this film immediately evokes thoughts of the First World War. But this is the world of today. It’s life on the front lines of the armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine, which started in 2014. And the battle still rages on between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian separatists. Trenches is the debut film of war journalist Loup Bureau, whose previous experience enables him to perfectly capture how young Ukrainian soldiers experience war.
We see and hear—and feel—the impact of gunfire and grenade attacks, but also witness the domestic side of life in the trenches. A soldier calmly sweeps away the dirt from the entrance to her hut, and plays with the stray cat that has moved in. Young men fill their empty hours smoking, playing computer games, or shaving each other’s heads. The aesthetic, carefully framed shots somehow amplify the prevailing sense of resignation.
It’s only when the soldiers are about to return home that they realize what an impact their experience has had on them. Will they be able to find a place for themselves in the ordinary world?