Born in 1964 in Belarus, raised in kyiv, graduate in engineering and mathematics, specialist in cybernetics, translator from Japanese, the Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa quickly branched off into the cinema. Accustomed to the Cannes Film Festival, he was discovered in 2012 with In the Mist, before winning the 2018 Best Director Award (Un Certain Regard section) for Donbass. In his fourteenth documentary, The Natural History of Destruction, an end-to-end editing without commentary of archival footage from the Second World War, we discover, on the German side, the ravages of the massive bombardments in the cities and on the civilian populations. We also see at work the madness of war, the death drive and the misery of the human condition. In light of the invasion of the Russian army in Ukraine, how to understand the war and prevent it, asks Sergei Loznitsa. This reader of Carl von Clausewitz and his treatise on war does not have the solution, but believes in the power of cinema to touch the public and change our vision of the world.

Le Point: What was your goal when you decided to show with archival images the human chaos caused by the Second World War?

Sergei Loznitsa: I wanted to immerse the viewer in the heart of the bombings in German cities and present them as if it were happening to them.

Some kind of immersion to experience horror?

Yes, and also an opportunity to raise this question of principle that still exists today: the possibility of killing civilians using a legitimate method of warfare. During World War II, the armies involved destroyed the cities of their enemies. Eighty years have passed, nothing has changed. You see today how the Russian army destroys Ukrainian cities and kills civilians. There is a link between the two wars because it is exactly the same principle of destruction that takes precedence.

Except for the threat of nuclear weapons wielded by Vladimir Putin?

Yes. But it has always been understood that nuclear weapons are more deterrent than operational. Today it is a direct threat and we have to admit that in all these years we have not found a way to ban this type of war of mass destruction.

Are there just wars?

There is no justification for a human to kill another human. It’s still a mental problem and you have to be mentally ill to allow this murder to happen.

Yet during World War II, the Allies had no other way to fight Hitler and Nazism, right?

Yes, of course, they had to fight against Hitler and defend themselves. So again, if you ask me, is it normal for a human being to kill another human being? The answer is no. And if you ask me, is it okay to defend yourself? The answer is yes. And we have lived in this paradox forever.

Isn’t war part of human nature?

What I think is mine and I keep it to myself. But the whole history of our species shows that war has always been a natural part of our existence. And so far, no one has contradicted Clausewitz who, in his treatise, writes that war is a natural state for us and that peace is only a rupture between wars.

He also said that “war is a continuation of political activity by other means. Do you think the Russian military’s war on Ukraine is Putin’s way of covering up a failed regime and the country’s economic difficulties?

It’s much deeper than that. It’s not just a political problem. I think the reason for this war lies in Putin’s subconscious, his deep resentment towards the West and his desire to rebuild the Russian Empire. And all of this politics comes from the Stalinist regime and is directly linked to communism and its legacy. Like a cancer spreading throughout the body.

How do you imagine the situation in Ukraine developing?

The only solution, the only type of exit strategy from the war, is regime change. But, at the moment, there is no sign of such a change and, yes, the situation is rather blocked. Europe has known conflicts that lasted thirty years, as in Ireland, and even the Hundred Years War. Unfortunately, there is nothing new.

Do you think that cinema can change our vision of the world or can operate, like this documentary, a kind of electroshock on the public?

Well, yes, in a way I believe that the public needs this electric shock as you say to be touched and awaken their sometimes numb sensitivity. And my way of making films is my immersive style so that the viewer lives the story from the inside.