In the brutally gruesome military drama Butterfly Vision, Lilia (Rita Burkowska) is a Ukrainian drone pilot who, after being held captive for months at the hands of Russian separatists in the Donbass region, finds her way to the front lines. Struggling to readjust to life.
The story begins with Lilia on her way home, where she treats a keloid scar and a flood of disturbing memories. She has limited support from her anguished mother (Miroslava Vitrichovska-Makaar), much less from her extremist militia member husband Toka (Lyubomir Valivoc).
However, this upsetting turn of events becomes even more harrowing after learning that Lilia was raped while in captivity and became pregnant as a result.
From the outset, director Maksim Nakonechny establishes a cinematic language that incorporates footage from a variety of sources, including livestream feeds, drone aerial video, and broadcast news B-roll. Perhaps the film’s boldest choice is to harness the textures of these formats: lag, distortion, and pixelation, in conveying the torrent of post-traumatic stress Lillia has on her days. The effect is jarring and feels more like a reckless camera trick than a window into her experience.
But “Butterfly Vision” stands out in its setting. The film was made before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and the story depicts the early stages of the war when attitudes towards the conflict were divided. In one scene, Lillia boards a bus and claims her fare waiver because of her status as a veteran. Her driver and her passengers were pissed and displeased, causing a ruckus until she got off. The film may aim to deliver an aesthetic and emotional impact, but it’s the mundane relationship moments that linger.
Unrated. Ukrainian, English, Russian with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. Watch movies.