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One of the most striking World War Two documentaries I have ever seen.
As a child of the cold war I've grown accustomed to seeing the Soviet Union portrayed as "The Evil Empire". This documentary, shot in the early '40s at the height of the war against Nazi Germany shows Russia and her republics in quite a different light. Beginning with a youth celebration in 1939 and a military parade in November 1940 the film focuses on the events surrounding the liberation of Moscow from the Germans in October 1941 through January 1942. The stark vistas of a Soviet winter creates the backdrop for a portrait of a region at war. The bright, clean Soviet youth at the celebration and the starched, uniformed soldiers at the military parade stand in stark contrast to the bedraggled and weary survivors later in the film. With shots of the Nazi's carnage on the city (including numerous shots of the dead and injured) the film gives a clear picture of the hardships endured during that long winter.
The film itself, while released in the west by Republic with narration by Edward G. Robinson, was shot entirely by Soviet cameramen. The film appears to have been shot with both 1940's "contemporary" and early hand-cranked silent cameras. The editing is at times frenetic, almost modern, with quick and jarring edits.
While watching this film I was repeatedly struck by the equipment being used by the Soviet soldiers. Artillery that was obviously left over from World War One along with Cavalry on horseback (with swords!) stand in stark relief with the equipment being used by all sides only a few short years later.
Moving, well shot and definitely deserving of the Oscar it received, "Moscow Strikes Back" should be on the "must watch" list of anyone interested in what the Soviets called "The Great Patriotic War".
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