Despite the use of surrealism, the film as a whole remains thoroughly grounded in reality. Much of the realism is due to specific decisions made by the director, some of which sound questionable at best in retrospect.
In addition to filming on location in Belarus, in chronological order, and with dialogue spoken in authentic Belarusian, Russian, and German, live ammunition was used in several scenes instead of blanks, sometimes missing the actors by mere inches. Many of the uniforms seen in the film are not costumes, but genuine originals from the war itself. Most impressively, no professional trained actors were used, making the compelling performances and Klimov’s directing of them all the more praiseworthy.
By keeping the action restricted to Florya’s point of view, Klimov gives us a child soldier’s eye view of the destruction, with no flashbacks or outside cutaways to offer relief. And even though elements such as subjective sound and non-diegetic music are utilized, the uncompromising you-are-there feel of the film is never abandoned.