The war in Ukraine rages on, yet each experience shines a new light on the conflict. Earlier this year, 20 Days in Mariupol paved a brazen path for filmmakers. It showed the violence and gore on the ground in stark images. Rule of Two Walls, a new documentary from David Gutnik, offers a different angle of the conflict. While much of the country remains torn by the war, some areas have begun reasserting their culture. Rule of Two Walls is a moving experience as it shines a hopeful light on the conflict.
In Ukraine, millions fled the eastern cities along the Russian border. While some left the country, this was not a universal approach. In fact, many artists stayed in the cities and continued to help the military and journalists on the ground. Gutnik and his friends provide a unique insight into the conflict, providing a view of the conflict from a ground perspective.
The power of Rule of Two Walls comes from the defiance on screen. The various artists who continue to create new work become beacons of hope. Their devotion to keeping culture alive in the darkest moments speaks to the power of the Ukrainian people. Even in war, the ability to make something beautiful becomes a powerful act. The pure emotion and pathos of their actions pour into the work and become transfixing.
The two artists we spend a vast amount of time with, Lyana Mytsko and Stepan Burban, provide an incredible foundation. Each needs their own approach to handle the emotional stress. In the case of Burbna, his art becomes angrier as the war rages on. Yet the release of emotion becomes an impeccable part of his experience. By the time we hear his final scream into a microphone, we have been to hell and back. It’s a powerful moment that will send shivers down your spine.
Gutnik allows his crew to provide their own commentaries on the film. These interstitials offer a more humane touch to the proceedings. One cannot help but wonder if they serve as testimonies, god forbid, if the worst were to occur. Yet Gutnik and his narrators explain the horrors they’ve so calmly that one cannot fathom the damage being done. It becomes a compelling device to reuse throughout Rule of Two Walls and speaks to the moment. These are real humans, simply trying to survive. This is one of the most upsetting yet essential films of the year.