Ashes in the Snow is a cruel tale of an aspiring 16-year old during Stalin’s dismantling of the Baltic regions.
Every time I think of World War Two, I find myself unforgiving when I forget the brutality served under Stalin’s reign. Maybe it’s because most mainstream films mainly focus on the Nazis and the Iron Curtain takes a secondary stance in the political landscape. Perhaps I need to research more stories about those who suffered under the Soviet regime. My viewing of Ashes in the Snow is a grand start to expand my knowledge bank.
The story revolves around a 16-year old girl named Lina (Bel Powley) who aspires to be an artist, with her father giving her hope that she will one day be accepted to a prestigious art school. The breadth of hope induced by the father at the start of the movie is curtailed by utter depression for the rest of the film, as Stalin grips his fists on the Baltic regions, dismantling them at will.
Ashes in the Snow envisions the experience families had to go through while Russian soldiers forcefully move them on to trains and set them up at camp. Some scenes are grim and downright dispiriting, while others are upsetting to witness — one, in particular, sees a frail older woman getting shot at the back of her head for stealing potatoes.
The main strength of the story comes from Lina and her mother (Lisa Loven Kongsli), two women that reflect such strength and resilience under horrific conditions, while the father of the family is missing, but both cling on to hope in cold, drab conditions. Interestingly, the story involves one soldier who is torn by his allegiances to Ukraine (Martin Wallström), and his conflict is a portrait to the shortcomings of dictatorship — in one scene he secretly affirms the fact that just because he has a gun, does not mean he is doing so by chance.
Director Marius A. Markevicius chooses to show Lina growing in strength while the resolve of her mother weakens throughout the story. Ashes in the Snow sells the premise that her artwork will be the virtue of a better future, but quite frankly, there’s not much happiness to be drawn from this film. If anything, soak in the depression, the cold atmosphere and the reality of the character’s situation. Ashes in the Snow is an honest, chilling movie that captures a never forgotten moment in our history, and as the end credits remind us, the fight still goes on today in these regions.