February 1917 revolution has affected mode of life in Russia and changed the course of Great War. Monarch has abdicated. In trenches, were the confrontation with Germans lasts for several years, Bolsheviks are very active with their propaganda. They call for making peace with enemy. Russian officers can actually do nothing without approval of so-called Soldiers Committees. The army is just near the stage of complete degradation. By order of Russian Provisional Government, attempting to strengthen the spirit, the female Death Battalion is established. In charge of the Battalion - Cavalier of St. George Maria Bochkareva. Death Battalion give the lead of courage, fortitude and composure, stiffen the spirit of soldiers and prove, that each of the female hero is worthy of the Warrior Title.
Well Made Movie That Introduces Some Little Known History
It's 1917, and the First World War has been going on for three years. In Russia, the Tsar has been overthrown and the provisional government led by Kerensky has taken power. But the Russian Army is completely demoralized. The Communists aren't yet in power (that would await the second revolution) but "Soldiers' Committees" have been formed that have essentially taken command of entire battalions. Officers aren't obeyed and the soldiers are refusing to fight. All is chaos. The Kerensky government decides to "boost morale" by forming an all-women's battalion under the command of Maria Bochkareva. This movie tells their story.
I always appreciate a movie that fills me in on some history that I wasn't previously familiar with and I had never heard of this story before. Bochkareva's battalion became known as the "1st Women's Battalion of Death" and although there were several women's battalions formed after them, they were the first of only two to go into battle against the Germans. Now, as far as history is concerned - from what I've read since watching this I realize that there's a lot of dramatic licence taken with the story, but the portrayal of Bochkareva - a tough, no nonsense battalion commander who had served in the Russian Army since the outbreak of the war and who refused to allow the formation of a "Soldiers' Committee" in the battalion - by a Russian actress named Mariya Aronova seemed authentic enough and was compelling. Bochkareva believed - and Kernesky agreed - that an all womens' unit (of women willing to fight) would shame the men into doing their duty as well.
It takes a while for the women's battalion to see combat, but once combat is introduced, it's portrayed pretty well and there are a lot of graphic scenes. I will say that it's sometimes difficult to tell the Russians from the Germans - although in some ways I suppose that adds to the chaotic feeling that must be a part of any battlefield. The film is in Russian with well done English subtitles; there's no need to dub it. If I could compare this movie to something western audiences might be familiar with, it struck me as similar in tone and purpose to "Glory" - the story of the first black regiment in the Union Army during the US Civil War. (8/10)
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