This is a simply wonderful documentary about the fighting in Ukraine during the Second World War. First of all, we see the Germans invading, driving the Ukrainians out of their land. Then the Ukrainians, with the help of the Red Army counter-attack driving the Germans slowly backwards. The film centres on the battle for Kharkov. It ends with the Germans being driven back across the river Dneiper.
The narration of events in this film is not particularly interesting. What makes this film wonderful are the images Dovzhenko uses. Near the beginning of the film we have beautiful images of the Ukrainian countryside and the people working and living in it - huge fields of wheat and sunflowers, swaying in the wind; orchards in blossom; reflections of the landscape in the clear river; people working the land in happiness. This strongly contrasts with the destruction we see when the germans invade - cities in ruins, villages destroyed, people fleeing the homes. One powerful image is of a woman lighting her stove, when that is all that is left of her house. At one point we see footage of german soldiers laughing as they march intercut with shots of destruction and death.
The battle scenes themselves are understandably a little confused and not particularly involving, although Dovzhenko does use some good shots of the smoke around the cannons, and his rapid editing is very effective. Some of the most powerful scenes come after the recapture of Kharkov, which lies in ruins. Various inhabitants are interviewed, telling of the cruelty of the germans, and we see truly disturbing shots of charred corpses, murdered children, and bodies heaped in ditches.
The whole film is narrated in voice-over, which understandably seems to be excessively keen on killing germans and a bit over the top in praise of the motherland. The subtitles, at least on the version I saw, were terrible: some scenes were not translated at all, and the english throughout was ungrammatical and badly spelt.
'Victory on the Right Bank Ukraine (1945)', also by Dovzhenko, follows straight on from where this film left off, but its imagery is not generally as powerful. 9/10
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