The soldiers at the award-ceremony receive the "General Assault Badge". See more »
Towards the end of the film, as Irina is trying to lead the Leutnant and Fritz to safety, they are walking through a heavy snow field under grey skies. Then a flare appears, the Red Army opens fire, and Irina runs towards the camera waving her hands and shouting, but the sky is blue and the scenery behind her has much less snow. See more »
A harrowing tale of young men being betrayed and slaughtered
This film affected me on many emotional levels. I saw the results of the war in East and West Berlin in 1957. While in Berlin I lived with a girl my age who lost her father in the battle for Stalingrad. Her tales made my hair stand on end as he was one of the many young Germans send there to fight as a punishment for errors,(read that as failure to win), in other battle zones.
It isn't well understood, but the Eastern Front was used as a threat and as a punishment by Hitler. Even Schindler in the film Schindler's List used that threat on the train station in order to get his bookkeeper released from the death train.
There are two scenes that will haunt be for the rest of my life:
The scene where Lt. Hans von Witzland, played by a very young and splendid Thomas Kretschmann, and the Russian actress Dana Vavrova who plays Irina.
That scene is so emotionally charged that it left both actors physically shaking. I can't imagine having to repeat that scene more than once. To have to hold that raw, totally exposed feeling/expression and body language while lights are adjusted and a different angle is used must have been physically and mentally exhausting for these two brilliant actors. They perform a brutal Dance Macabre that is both horrific and fascinating.
This scene is no longer about an enemy and the one who has been conquered. It is about a young man desperate to find one moment of humanity on an endless nightmare and a young woman who hates him and herself and yet can not resolve her situation. That he is a German and she is Russian is not as important as that they are both souls in torment with no way out.
The human agony of that scene is superior to anything I have seen in over 60 years of watching movies.
The other is the final scene between Dominique Horwitz and Kretschmann as Fritz and Hans clinging to each other overwhelmed and miniaturized by the vast Russian winter.
That final scene reminds me of Napoleon's death march from Moscow in 1812. The results were to same. No enemy can come marching into Russia and live to march out again.
I began watching this film firmly committed to cheering the Russians and hating the Germans.
By the end I was crying for them all.
That is the message of this fine film. War is a waste...a waste of human lives, of property, and of moral and religious focus.
This is a classic anti-war film not unlike All Quiet on the Western Front or What Price Glory.
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