‘Blizzard of Souls’ Review: A Soldier’s Tale From the Front


This World War I story begins on a striking tableau that illustrates the title. A hiking shot shows a battlefield on which a blanket of snow almost, but not entirely, camouflages the corpses of dozens of dead soldiers.

It’s about as harrowing as this film made by Dzintars Dreibergs from a 1934 novel by Aleksandrs Grins. Like so many war images, “Blizzard of Souls” tells the story of a young man, Arturs Vanag (the fresh-faced Oto Brantevics). At the beginning of the film, he’s a cute teenager on a farm. Then one afternoon some German soldiers come by and kill his mother and the family dog. So, together with his father and brother, he signs with the Latvian battalion of the Imperial Russian Army.

For a while, war is the heck. The recruits train in the mud with wooden models of rifles, but during their downtime they frolic in surprisingly clean tunics. One concludes that the food in the camp is not bad either. In the actual fight, down in the trenches, a mortar explosion temporarily stunned the soldiers, one of whom responded with a “Wow, that was weird” grin. On the offensive, Arturs comes from head to toe with a German soldier and bayonets him after a moment of hesitation. After all, it’s his duty. They also killed his mother and dog.

“Blizzard” is almost flawlessly shot and edited, but its tasteful approach to warfare as well as its treacly musical score by Lolita Ritmanis underscores the main reason: a relentless “Go, Latvia!” Agenda – which here has expanded to include your marketing. It is the country’s official entry in the International Feature Film category of the Academy Awards.

Blizzard of souls
Not rated. In Latvian with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. Watch virtual cinemas.