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An amazingly accurate World War 2 film, mixture of documentary and drama
Wow, just wow. What can I say about this masterpiece is very little indeed. I watched the original Russian version of the film which goes on for about 7.5 hours and is split in 5 films, which start with the events from the Battle of Kursk through to the surrender of Germany (There is also a "Western" cut which goes for about 2 hours and is only about the battle of Kursk). Not one minute of these 7.5 hours was I bored. The events portrayed are well-researched and accurately depicted on screen. The film switches from the battlefield to the General Staff rooms of both Germany and Soviet Union. The actors playing Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt and their generals and ministers are spitting images of the actual historical figures and even speak and behave the same way. The film follows several soldiers as main characters and depicts how their life was in the hellfire of that war and never once does it show unnecessary or boring scenes. It doesn't try to draw the audience with action and explosions, instead the film draws you in with the feelings these people have and with their experiences, their comradeship, their jokes, their courage and their fear. It's certainly above any other World War II film I've ever watched. It's not an attempt to propaganda, it doesn't portray the Germans as evil and the soviets as good. The only person that can be described as the evil character in the film is Hitler. There are plenty of scenes where Germans are shown to be just ordinary people like anyone else and not bloodthirsty beasts. I was awed with a scene where 2 Russian tankists where dining with a German family and toasting to their health, or when the Berlin subway was flooded by Hitler in an attempt to stop the advancing Soviets, both the German and Soviet soldiers were working together to help save the civilian population that was taking refuge in the subway. Ozerov really did an amazing job, and not once in the whole film did I find any part that was omitting history. Everything was accurately portrayed and not one cent was spared in making it. I recommend it to everyone who's a genuine world war 2 buff, but be warned, do not expect heroic scenes and an action-filled movie like Hollywood does. This is more of a documentary than a film, and it shows war exactly as it is. A gritty and unnecessary endeavour.
Footnote: To the author above, the "german turncoats" were actually antifascists arrested by Hitler shortly after he rose to power in 1933, that's why they were helping the Red Army. Furthermore, I agree that the film did not portray Soviet atrocities committed to the German populace, however let's not forget that the common Soviet soldiers were acting upon the feel of revenge (mainly due to propaganda of newspapers back home) and quickly after the first rapes and mass murders, the Soviet high-command issued strict orders that rapists, looters and murderers of civilians would be shot on the spot, which significantly reduced the civilian casualties. Stalin himself said "Hitler and his lackeys will come and go, but Germany and Germans will always be there. Let not one of our soldiers commit atrocities on the citizens of the enemy"
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