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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.
A Birthday Present that finally answers the age old question of what to
get the man who has everything. This film was presented to Stalin on
his 70th birthday and is the archtypical Stalin Film. It is intriguing
insight into the mindset of the man who ruled and terrorized 1/5 of all
humanity and 1//2 of Europe by the film's 1949 release date. The
acting, especially the Aliosha and Natasha love plot tied in with
Stalin is poorly acted but makes all sense when you look at how Aliosha
looks to Stalin for advice, because truth be told this film is a
romance for Stalin. The special effects and lighting are excellent for
a 1940s film and it is shot in a grand scale that matched the efforts
of Kolberg, Gone with the Wind, and the 1926 Ben Hur.
The best parts of this film are the impressions of Churchill and Hitler. Minus Churchill speaking Russian, they have his lisp and mannerisms done exceedingly well. Hitler and Goering provide great charictatures and are humorously well done. At best its an intriguing insight into the delusions of madness that Stalin subjected his people to and at worst its a 2 hour festival of unintentional humor. I'd recommend it for any historian.
In the annals of movies that afford rich entertainment in ways totally
unintended by their makers, The Fall of Berlin occupies an honoured
The story, the vicissitudes of a soldier at the front and his sweetheart in a German forced labour camp, is juxtaposed with sequences of Stalin and Hitler conducting the war.
Stalin, wise, kind and, of course, a supreme military leader is a hoot, but it is Hitler who rivets and enthralls. In scenes overdrawn to the point of parody and beyond, all livid blues and menacing shadows, actor V. Savelyev delivers a performance that should have had him sent to the gulag for upstaging his fellow despot. In his final, hilarious scene, his dog Blondi is despached by a spiked canape delivered by Eva Braun during their wedding breakfast - surely the cinema's finest death scene!
10 out of 10!
Perhaps not the most sophisticated film ever made about World War II, but this 1949 Soviet film is a rousing, solid, popular piece of filmmaking. Reportedly made as a present for Stalin's 70th birthday, who took great interest in its production, it was made with considerable production values (for that time) and in great Agfacolor film, taken as war reparation from the Germans. It's a propaganda film alright, but is very well made. As far as I know this was also the first fiction film dealing with the fall of Berlin (though the film, despite its title, deals with all the war in the eastern front, starting from the German invasion of Russia and not just its ending). I'm sure its intended audience the Soviet masses who just have been through WW2, appreciated the movie. Hitler and his minions (who all speak in Russian in the film) are portrayed as grotesque, pathetic buffoons but this is not necessarily a bad thing since they are the comic relief of the movie. Also fun is the portrayal of Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta conference, the American president is shown as naive and slightly befuddled, the British premier a mean, conniving old man. Stalin, meanwhile, is portrayed through the film as a wise, gentle, all knowing commander leading his country into victory (never mind his well recorded nervous breakdown at the start of Operation Barbarossa). Summing up, despite some historical inaccuracies, this is a very good film, especially for those interested in World War II (note: in this review, I deal with both part I and part II, since the division of the movie in two halves is artificial).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This monumental film in Agfacolor (ironically a German patent) was shot
in 1949 to celebrate Stalin's greatest triumph, the victory over his
arch-rival (and former ally) Hitler and the capture of Berlin by the
Red Army in April/May 1945. The film's blatant, plump propaganda and
hilariously absurd dramaturgy make it a gem of unintentional humor and
thus very entertaining to watch, especially if you are aware of the
true historical background behind the massive distortions.
Stalin, in fact one of history's most feared and ruthless mass-murderers, appears as some kind of benevolent, peace-loving demi-god all dressed in a white gala uniform, who never loses his temper, is always in control of the situation and stays at the same time a wise and likable grand-daddy who despite his infallible greatness has not lost his touch with the common people, who of course idolize him like crazy. In comparison to him Churchill and Roosevelt look like senile and disoriented losers, while Hitler is being portrayed as a raving cartoon maniac straight out of THE GREAT DICTATOR.
The other characters which are supposed to be "common Russian people" are nothing more but schematic cardboard stereotypes following the ideals of the communist-stalinist doctrine with unflinching enthusiasm and no real life of their own. German civilians appear only briefly in the end of the film, finally condemning their Führer. Not shown of course are the atrocities committed by the Red Army as they entered Berlin, especially the mass rapes of women and girls of all ages; Jewish victims of Hitler are curiously not mentioned at all, and neither is of course the Sowjetunion's decisive part in causing the outbreak and escalation of WWII. Mixed up in this is a kitschy love story with loads of unbelievable plot points (the hero does not only kiss the heroine for the first time exactly when the Germans invade completely out of the - literal - blue, he also rescues her from a concentration camp AND meets her again in the victorious crowd in the streets of Berlin).
The film may also have the distinction of being the very first in the "Hitler's Last Days in the Bunker"-Subgenre. Others to follow were G. W. Pabst's DER LETZTE AKT (1955), Hitler: THE LAST TEN DAYS (1973), THE BUNKER (1981), 100 JAHRE ADOLF Hitler - DIE LETZTE STUNDE IM FÜHRERBUNKER (1989) and DOWNFALL (2004). Notable is also the wonderful score by Shostakovitch, a great artist serving once again the totalitarian lie. Of course, beyond the campy propaganda fun the underlying immense tragedy of the incredibly atrocious Soviet-German-War should always be kept in mind when watching.
This of course is a pro-Stalin Russian film, but it has other values.First of all, for occidental public, and as many other Russian films of the 40's and 50's, it shows us the almost never watched Russian-side of the II World War.For them it was the "Liberation War", where they lost 18 to 21 million people, more than all the other nation's loses.Something we often forget or simply ignore, so this is an opportunity, from a mere historical view, to look at that "ignored" side of the big war. Keeping Stalin speeches, his battle planning and his final and incredible arrival to Berlin apart, the movie shows good epic moments:the final battle for the Reichstag, the surrender of the German troops in the streets of Berlin, the dialog between the "good worker and soldier" Aloisha with a German officer explaining how they will destroy his city and house as they did with their houses and cities, the final celebration before the(real)ruins of the Reichstag...And also the Hitler's scenes, which constitute a kind of "grand guignol", another movie inserted in the epic film.It's also interesting to see the theories (wether they be only partly true)about Nazis relations with English industrial trusts in the middle of the war, or Hitler's hope of an agreement with Anglo-Americans against Russians, anticipating the Cold War.We the Spanish know something about this, as the fascist Franco was kept in power by the allies, taking advantage of this cold war. "Padeniye Berlina", sometimes boring and a bit theatrical, contains these and many other good scenes, an attractive photographic work (with those Agfa color negatives, so different, but not less fascinating, from the accustomed American technicolor of the time), and a good score. And then , the Stalin omnipresence. But, sceptical as I am in relation to all political regimes, I don't think this propaganda film to be so different from other occidental films of the kind (war, patriotic ones). For me, it's good to get now the opportunity to watch many soviet films we couldn't even know of before the "DVD-era" arrived.They show less propaganda than we could expect (not in this film, of course)and let us know of their daily stories, or their war epics and miseries, so similar to the hundred of stories of American cinema with which we grew up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems almost -- almost -- unfair to judge "The Fall of Berlin" as a
film. It's a piece of Soviet state propaganda that doesn't really try
to masquerade as a film. Soviet cinema wasn't always straight
propaganda, of course, and most films I've seen from the Soviet era had
mostly ambitions that were artistic of entertaining. This is the
exception. It's all about Stalin and the Soviet state (as one), and
this results in a simply ridiculous film.
Stalin was, it has been said, supposed to be a man that a Soviet citizen both feared and loved with all his heart, and this film bears that out. When our hero-factory-worker-soldier Alexei meets him in an early scene he is petrified for not knowing what to say. And Stalin the all-knowing ends up miraculously solving his love life.
That love life is a wooden and perfunctory set of scenes that are also, of course, as much about Stalin as anything. They theoretically serve to get a blank hero a motivation for going to battle, and then the rest of the film meanders between scenes of battles and heads of the two sides of the war talking.
Stalin appears a lot, but not too much. He's a man-god, and if we see too much of the man-god, the polish wears off. He's played as an infallible (apart from the odd decision of doing his gardening in a bright white jacket) and imperturbable being, and by an actor covered in so much make-up that he seems to be made of wax.
In general, actors who look quite a lot like their real-world (I hesitate to say "historical" since the film was made so soon after the events it describes) counterparts have been found, but they aren't necessarily good or given anything halfway believable to say.
Hitler is given a lot of screen-time, and he's portrayed as a shouting, raving, rabid, loony, nut-ball. It might be the most hilariously hammy, scene-chewing performances I've ever seen. Hitler was certainly no model of reason and rationality in real life, but if he'd actually behaved like this he would have been immediately been thrown in an insane asylum instead of being put in charge of Germany. The idea is to contrast the emotional ravings of Hitler's leadership with the calm inspiration of Stalin's -- and they over-egged the pudding the point where it was mostly just eggs.
In favor of the film, it does look spectacular, and there are some inspired shots and photography. It's clear no expense has been spared, and the scenes in Berlin at the end seem quite convincing. The scenes of Hitler rolling his eyes while taking part in a crazed wedding with Eva as the Wedding March plays and he deliberately orders his own people drowned in the subways (well, he is literally Hitler) does end up being quite dramatic.
The score is by the great Dmitri Shostakovich, and even when in his mode of being sarcastically subservient to the Soviet musical establishment (as here) and writing elaborated fanfares rather than pushing formal and musical limits, his music is always fascinating and worthwhile.
The dialog is mostly unremittingly stupid, but there is a nice moment where Churchill proposes a toast to the King, Stalin professes a distaste for monarchy, and Roosevelt instead proposes one to the heath of Kalinin, the Soviet version of a nominal head of state who was really just a figurehead.
When Khrushchev denounced Stalin's cult of personality after his death, very few hesitated to sigh and denounce it with him. I suspect part of the reason was that it was built on a combination of fear and artifacts like this film, which no thinking person could find even slightly believable.
It's interesting as a historical artifact, amusing for it's woodenness, and admirable basically only for some of its visual elements.
I purchased a DVD of this film in order to see a Soviet-made WW II film
made during the peak of the "Stalin cult" and during the early years of
the cold war. I wanted to see the impact of Soviet propaganda on WW II
films at this time and therefore found it very interesting in that
regard, although the film itself is somewhat muddled. It awkwardly
weaves a love story between a simple Stakhanovite (a big producer in
the steel mills) and a schoolteacher with the ebb and flow of the war
with Nazi Germany, and lo and behold they are reunited (she was sent to
Germany as a slave laborer) at the bottom of the conquered Reichstag in
the heart of Berlin at the end of the war. And Stalin arrives at the
end of the battle for Berlin to receive a grateful kiss from the
schoolteacher at the Reichstag and receive the adulation of both the
Soviet armies and of the captives of all nations liberated by the Red
Army in their various languages. In addition, there are the "stock"
characters beloved in Soviet demonology: The scheming British
capitalist who intends to get strategic metals to the Reich from
Sweden, the Vatican emissary to the Reich in full bishop's regalia who
praises Hitler, the Nazi officer who feigns surrender only to throw a
grenade at his Soviet captors. Churchill at Yalta is portrayed as
scheming and untrustworthy; he asks Stalin to toast George VI to which
the proletarian Generalissimo refuses. Hitler is portrayed in equal
parts buffoonish and crazy, so much so that we wonder, given this
portrayal, how he was able to captivate and inspire, at least for much
of the war, his generals and party comrades. Stalin, of course, is
portrayed as calm and never fearful, and full of wisdom.
But it should be noted that much of the military history is accurate. Although the film (obviously) does not cover Stalin's decapitation of the Red Army in the great purge of 1937 and his refusal to listen to Soviet intelligence as well as warnings from Churchill that a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was imminent in the spring of 1941, which were both disastrous for the Soviets, it does show his decision to stay in Moscow in the fall of 1941, when the Germans launched their "final offensive" against Moscow and much of his government was panicking. It's fair to say that remaining in Moscow improved the morale of the Red Army fighting only 30-40 km from the Kremlin. To expedite the conquest of Berlin, Stalin sets the demarcation line between Marshall Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front and Marshall Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front right in the center of Berlin to foster a rivalry between the two commanders in capturing Berlin. We hear the denigration of the Reich's resistance against the Anglo-American armies while Nazi Germany fights fanatically against the invading Red Army (This was only true of the last weeks of the war when the Germans were desperate to surrender to the western allies and avoid the feared Russians.) The depiction of the fighting is very good in places, but looks stilted in others. An officer tells his fighting men that wherever we go: "Stalin is with us." The director had access to some five Soviet divisions. The massing of artillery at the April 16th offensive on Berlin (from the Oder River), complete with searchlights, looked impressive. I believe the 1st Belorussian Front had something like an artillery piece every 10 meters for miles! And the final assault on the Reichstag also looked very realistic. Even though the Reichstag hadn't been used since the fire of 1933, the Red Army viewed it as the ultimate symbol of Nazi Germany whose destruction meant the final extinction of the Reich.
It should be noted that Marshall Zhukov is not treated well in this film. One scene is titled "Zhukov's Error", and when Stalin makes his fictional visit to Berlin after the Reichstag's been taken, he meets three generals (Konev, Rokossovsky, and Chuikov) but not Marshall Zhukov, his most successful commander. Stalin feared Zhukov's popularity after the war, and he was subsequently demoted to minor postings by the time the film was made in 1949.
The film ends with Stalin "dropping out of the clouds" from his magnificent airplane (reminiscent of Hitler in Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will", as many have noted) and spreading his benevolence to the assembled masses in the heart of Berlin. Our "Engineer of Souls" pronounces his wish for "peace and happiness" for all mankind. In actuality, at the time of the events being depicted (1945) he was preparing another repressive crackdown on individual liberties, and at the time the film was made (1949) he was close to giving his approval to Kim II Sung to invade South Korea. Khrushchev always viewed the film's director, Mikheil Chiaureli, as a hack, and the film was withdrawn from circulation during the de-stalinization campaign beginning in 1953. But 38 million Soviet citizens watched it in upon its release in 1950 and it remains an excellent example of Soviet historiography.
This is a difficult movie to evaluate, given the circumstances under
which it was made. In 1950 in a USSR tightly controlled by the
Communist Party headed by Josep Stalin, what movie about the war
against the Nazis would not have been filled with propaganda and have
extolled Stalin? Propaganda interferes with the art of any movie, no
matter what its national origin. Propaganda prevents a movie from
ringing true. "The Fall of Berlin" is permeated with propaganda. The
love between the two leads is admirably acted and has some emotional
content. Nevertheless, it's so intertwined with phony scenes of joy at
the steel mill and in the fields before the Nazis attack, that it all
seems more a relic of its times than anything else. Yet, the color
photography is beautiful. The staging is good. As a propaganda display
of group spirit and love of one's rulers, it is a valuable historical
Where the movie-making really gets good is in some of the battle scenes. These involve many tanks and rather real looking battlefields. The actual hand-to-hand fighting, however, is often staged quite badly. The recreation of the Reichstag is very good indeed.
Then there is the portrayal of Stalin and Hitler. These are fun to see. The actor playing Stalin looks very much like him. That's about the only resemblance to the truth of his character we are getting in this movie. War movies produced in Hollywood often were almost as untruthful. Stalin is shown as a democrat, a man of the people, out among his people, friendly, a brilliant general, loved and revered by his people, etc. In reality, he closeted himself in the Kremlin, had no feeling for people, killed and tortured millions, was cynical, paranoid and cruel.
As for Hitler, his famous outbursts and loss of touch with reality are shown here in spades. It almost becomes comical.
I rate the movie as average, but it really cannot be rated conventionally. It's a spectacle, more often badly done than well done, but sometimes effective in the battle scenes or in the scenes showing the Nazis or a lovable Stalin. It's something for sociological study. It's part of the cult of Stalin that Khrushchev condemned at the earliest opportunity after Stalin's death in 1953, only three years after this movie was made.
It's quite obvious that the lead actor, Boris Andreyev, was a professional. He was quite famous in Russia, made many movies and had a long career, before and after this movie.
Mikheil Gelovani, who played Stalin, was so well-liked in that role by Stalin that he became typecast thereafter. He made 12 movies as Stalin. Since Stalin was a "living God", he could not play other roles without damaging Stalin's image. After Khrushchev's speech in 1956 that criticized the cult of Stalin, all the films in which Gelovani had played Stalin were banned or had Stalin's scenes cut out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One must accept this film as extremely political because of the time period it was produced(Cold war era)1949.Making fun of the Nazis in motion pictures was a game both sides of the Iron curtain played.In this movie the tactic of depicting them as mentally crazed by using actors that match their historical counterparts in "looks" works pretty well in the make believe category!! Indeed most of the leaders portrayed here are reminiscent of their true life counterparts for example Stalin,Molotov,Goering,Zhukov,Hitler(GEEEE I wish I had Mr V.Savelyev to play me a fuhrer in a more honest depiction because this guy really does have his appearance),the intention of their "look alike ness" being to rub in the victorious Soviet view at the time by making the events and people seem factual.For example,the idea of introducing an Englishman named "Bedstone" organizing deals with Goering is pure Communist fantasy,the idea of this scene being to show us a heartless "Western power" collaborating with the Reich in their common ideological struggle against Bolshevism,not true,just another Russian excuse for opposing the "Capatilist Imperialists".But OK being an Soviet propaganda movie made for Stalins birthday we must not judge it the way we should a modern/honest documentary dealing with ww2!!For those buffs out there who like the authentic war gear of the period you'll be pleased when viewing "The fall" as its crawling with it.Romance is also featured in this epic with big guy Aliosha clearing enemy territory by scaring the Nazis back to Berlin using his PPSH mg while searching for his stolen Natasha,giving the viewer all the more reason to cheer for the Reds no matter how much one might dislike them.An pretty love story that meets an happy ending with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the sudden unexpected visit by Stalin The Great(butcher) next to the Reichstag.All in all its a great movie loaded with nice scenes(some laughable),one that made beautiful use of color and lighting.I had the benefit of English subtitles when I watched it on Youtube so gone are the days when Russian seemed such a complicated language!!!!Great film
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