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Elem Germanovich Klimov ( ; 9 July 193326 October 2003) was a Sovietmarker Russianmarker film director. He studied at VGIK, and was married to film director Larisa Shepitko. He is best known in the West for his final film, 1985's Come and See (Иди и смотри), a powerful tale of a teenage boy in German-occupied Belarusmarker during the Great Patriotic War, but he also directed dark comedies, children's movies, and historical pictures.

Early life

Elem Klimov was born in Stalingradmarker (now Volgograd) in July 1933. His parents were staunch communists and his first name was an acronym derived from the names of Engels, Lenin and Marx. During the Battle of Stalingradmarker, he, his mother and his baby brother were evacuated from their home and crossed the Volga on a makeshift raft. Klimov would later draw on these experiences for his 1985 film Come and See.

In 1957, Klimov graduated from the Higher Institute of Aviation in Moscow. He considered a career in journalism before settling on cinema. He enrolled at the state film school, VGIK, where he studied under acclaimed director Efim Dzigan. While a student at the institute, Klimov met Larisa Shepitko, whom he would later marry.

Film career

Klimov's first feature film, the 1964 Welcome, or No Trespassing (known in the UKmarker as No Holiday for Inochkin) was a satire on Soviet bureaucracy in the guise of a children's summer camp adventure story. The film was briefly banned, having been deemed an insult to the Party; however, the ban was rescinded after Khrushchev had a private viewing and authorised its release.

Klimov's second film, Adventures of a Dentist (1965), was a dark (and in some ways Tatiesque) comedy about a dentist who is derided (and eventually has his life ruined) by his colleagues for his natural talent of painlessly pulling out teeth. The implication, that society inevitably ostracizes those that are gifted, horrified the censors who told Klimov to change it. When Klimov refused, the film was given the lowest classification, "category three", which meant that it was shown in only 25–78 movie theatres.

Next, Klimov began making a film about Rasputin called Agony. The road to screening took him nine years and many rewrites. Although finished in 1975, the final edit was not released in the USSR until 1985, due to suppressive measures partly because of its orgy scenes and partly because of its relatively nuanced portrait of Tsar Nicholas II. It had been shown in western Europe a few years before. In 1976, Klimov finished a film begun by his teacher Mikhail Romm before the latter's death called And Still I Believe....

In 1979, Klimov's wife Larisa Shepitko died in a car accident while at work directing a film based on a famous Russian novel by Valentin Rasputin called Farewell to Matyora. His wife's death had a profound impact on Klimov - all his films after this were tragedies. He finished the film that his wife had been working on and also directed a 25-minute tribute to her called Larisa.

His next film, Come and See, was released in 1985 to worldwide acclaim and won the top prize at the Moscow Film Festival. The film depicts the experiences of a 15-year-old boy joining the resistance in Nazi-occupied Belarus in 1943. Speaking of how the film drew on his own childhood experience of the war, Klimov said, "As a young boy, I had been in hell... Had I included everything I knew and shown the whole truth, even I could not have watched it."

In 1986, fresh from the success of Come and See, and with the changes brought by perestroika in the air, Klimov was chosen by his colleagues to be the First Secretary of the new, revamped Filmmakers' Union. His reign saw the belated release of hundreds of previously banned films and the reinstatement of several directors who had fallen out of political favour. However, Klimov was frustrated by the obstacles that still remained in his way and gave up his post in 1988 to Andrei Smirnov, saying that he wanted to make films again.

Later life and death

Klimov did not complete any further films after Come and See. In 2000, he declared, "I've lost interest in making films. Everything that was possible I felt I had already done." He died in October 2003 after six weeks in a coma.


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