Writer, director, and cinematographer Valentyn Vasyanovych’s film opens with a wordless execution and shallow burial captured on infrared cameras. Suddenly it is 2025 – one year after “the war” in an alternate universe Ukraine. The cause, the enemy, and the circumstances of the newfound peace are not fully elucidated at any point during Atlantis, but the effects of the war on the people and land unfold in harrowingly nondescript scenes of mine detonation, body recovery, and small intimacies that provide a respite from the overwhelming environmental restoration ahead. The audience’s guide through this world is Sergiy (Andriy Rymaruk), an ex-soldier battling PTSD as he joins clean-up and rebuilding efforts, seeking meaning in the monotony of tasks whose horrors become mundane early in the film.

Atlantis’ arrestingly stark cinematography, unhurried pace, and diegetic sound design bring a strange hope and beauty to Sergiy’s story. Rymaruk’s understated performance unfolds in wide frames, his face often away from the camera or too far to make out, allowing actions and fragmented statements to reveal his history. The landscapes are harsh and unforgiving, but the meticulous, unsensationalised care taken in identifying, investigating, and cataloguing half-mummified corpses (most of the film’s second act) is tender. The tasks Sergiy and his companions are up against feel insurmountable, but the deliberate repetition of minesweeping and pollution containment tasks never feel meaningless. Yes, Sergiy’s factory mates might poke fun at the overly positive video reports that play during their lunch break, but no irony or nihilism undercuts the importance and impact of one day’s restoration.

Atlantis is oblique, unaggressively bold, and deeply hopeful. Vasyanovych’s unique directorial and cinematographic vision does not undersell destruction on personal, national, or environmental levels, but its thesis insists on humanity’s self-redemption. Its conclusion would feel almost macabre in a less sensitive film; here, its catharsis succeeds.



CAST: Andriy Rymaruk, Liudmyla Bileka, Vasyl Antoniak

DIRECTOR: Valentyn Vasyanovych

WRITER: Valentyn Vasyanovych

SYNOPSIS: A soldier suffering from PTSD befriends a young volunteer hoping to restore peace to a war-torn, fictionalised Ukraine.