April 1945: Gregor Hecker, 19 years of age, reaches the outskirts of Berlin as part of the Red Army's scouting team. Having fled Germany with his family when he was eight, he is confronted ... See full summary »
Two 17-year-olds, Werner Holt and Gilbert Wolzow, are pulled out of school and into Hitler's army. Gilbert becomes a fanatical soldier, but at the front Werner begins to understand the ... See full summary »
I had no idea this film dated from 1961 as I watched it, mesmerized, last night. It is so well produced, written and acted that I thought it must have been one of the recent German films about WWII, like Der Untergang and Stalingrad and Das Boot. I believed the black and white film -- virtually perfect in the DVD transfer I saw -- was there only for the verisimilitude it offered.
The acting is convincing. The music is disturbing -- modern, yet "classical" to the point of being ageless.
One very minor quibble: In the version I saw, a line about the arms the soldiers will carry on their mission is badly translated/subtitled. It comes out something like "8mm pistols and .98 calibre rifles." The ".98 calibre rifles" should have been the Gewehr 98K ("K" for Karbiner, or carbine). Like I said -- minor!
One caveat: as it was produced for the East German market -- in the year before the Berlin wall went up -- there may be Soviet influences on the film that I didn't pick up on -- believing as I did that this was a post-Cold War film. If the same film were to be made today, in a reunified Germany, there might be thematic differences, but I think they'd be rather minor.
Highly recommended as both a history lesson and as a film.
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