Surrounded by a few party officials, Alexei Ivanov, a stakhanovist smelter, is decorated by Stalin. The "Little Father of the Peoples" takes this opportunity to invoke threats of war.... ...
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The film is set in the city of Krasnodon in 1942 during the Nazi occupation of Russia. Local teenagers are organizing the underground resistance. The teens manage to outsmart the Nazis in ... See full summary »
Surrounded by a few party officials, Alexei Ivanov, a stakhanovist smelter, is decorated by Stalin. The "Little Father of the Peoples" takes this opportunity to invoke threats of war.... One day, war indeed breaks out. Bombs fall on the field where Alexei finds himself in the company of the schoolmistress Natacha, his fiancée. Alexei joins the Red Army and soon becomes a sergeant. Fighting rages and German troops advance. Natacha is arrested and deported. But the tide turns decisively with the German defeat at Stalingrad. Now the major offensive against Hitler can begin. Written by
I had the privilege of seeing the unreleased (as of this writing) DVD containing a restoration of the film utilizing the original negative. While the restoration isn't pristine (some scratches still appear), it manages to restore and maintain the coloration of the German Agfacolor stock that was used. Check out the comparison between the original and the restoration in the special features. The total film is 151 minutes long, split into two parts but I really didn't feel it bogged down too much. It is in Russian but has English subtitles.
There is some good outdoor cinematography especially in the scene that represents Germany's invasion of Russia, though most of the interior work is rather stilted with a few shots that show brilliance for its time period.
The score is brilliantly done by Dimitri Shostakovich befitting the epic scope that is presented.
As revisionist propaganda, this film was created as a valentine to Stalin for his 70th birthday presenting the Russian side of World War II and Stalin's steadfastness.For the most part though, the propaganda in the film is rather subtle in its views of the Allies, but blistering in its portrayals of Hitler, Gehring and Goebbels. Hilter is presented from the very beginning as a man who has already gone off the deep end (which I'm not sure is inaccurate). Though I must admit that it appears that the filmmaker was attempting to show that the British and the Americans did not care enough about the Russian front which was Stalin's view of their behavior in the war.
There is a framing device that drives the "story" along in a romance between a Russian steelworker and a Russian teacher. When the Nazi's invade, she is captured and taken to a camp and he joins the fight so that he can find her. We follow him through the major battles though the time line skips the negative parts of the war for the Russians and presents primarily their victories. He manages to be at every one including the Fall of Berlin which ends the film. Of course there is a happy ending as if there is any doubt about it. It appears that Russians of that time period used cliché story lines as much as Hollywood.
Most of the actors look creepily like the historical figures they are except the actor playing FDR. He was shown looking fairly frail which is not the image that we have of him in the US. The actor playing Stalin in the film had portrayed him in Russian films since 1939 and would continue to play Stalin in all but one of his films after this one. He is a dead ringer with Stalin's mannerisms down pat.
I have to admit that there were times that I laughed, especially at the portrayal of Hitler. The performance was so over the top at times that I half expected him to pull out some mustard to go with his scenery chewing.
Of course, being a propaganda film, the facts are skewed to favor Stalin and the Russians and even twisted to some degree. The Yalta meeting is a good example of that. There is also dramatized scene of Stalin arriving in Berlin to great acclaim that did not actually happen.
Overall it is a rarity that is interesting to film and WWII buffs who would like to see what the Russians thought of the US and the rest of world. I've watched many propaganda films through the years (both American and Eastern Bloc) but this one is truly epic in scope.
When this is released, I would recommend if you are interested in the subject to pick it up.
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