War
Stalingrad
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Dir: Joseph Vilsmaier
Star: Dominique Horwitz, Thomas Kretschmann, Karel Hermánek
Cert / Year: 15 / 1992
Format: DVD R2
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Stalingrad is made from the same production company that made Das Boot (a fine World War II submarine movie), so I was expecting a great film and I wasn’t disappointed.

The film is set at one of the bloodiest & most significant battles of the Second World War and follows a particular group of German soldiers through the Stalingrad campaign. The film at times is not easy to watch given that it does not leave a lot to the imagination when it comes to the battle scenes. This is mainly due to director Joseph Vilsmaier, who portrays the whole horrors of war so realistically that you do get a feeling of what these individuals had to endure during this brutal battle.

The battalion, led by Hans Von Witzland (Thomas Kretschmann) are sent from their coastal retreat in Italy to Russia in order to bolster troop support in Stalingrad. The film then focuses on him and the other principal characters, Manfred (Jochen Nickel), Ge Ge (Sebastien Rudolf) and Fritz, who I felt was the most outstanding character of the whole film and was played with great style by Dominique Horwitz.

As soon as they get to Stalingrad, Witzland realises that they are not just battling the Russians but also the unforgiving nature of the German Army to their own countrymen. It is after an incident with a Russian soldier that Witzland realises the harsh reality of what he has gotten himself into. This is further highlighted after a battle for just one building where a soldier states that there are only "62 men left out of 400".

Desertion, friendly fire casualties, guilt, cowardice, bravery & fear are just some of the issues which are handled brilliantly in the film to give you the image that this is a film not just about a physical battle, but also a mental one as well.

The scenes that stand out though are not the battle scenes (although they are excellent) but in the interludes between them. It is here that you see the actor’s performances come fruition where the true state of mind of the soldiers can be seen. The sense that these "calm" moments should be savoured can be felt, as when the fighting erupts they become pawns yet again in the German Army’s war game. However, the most poignant moment of the film comes in a truce scene where the horrors of war are put aside for a moment of true humility

The film is made in German and dubbed in English and I did get the impression that some of the original dialogue got lost in the translation. However, this did not detract from the impressive quality of the film. The actors although they are unknown to me give top-notch performances and I couldn’t see a bad performance in the whole film. I am starting to become a big fan of foreign cinema as it generally focuses more on story and plotlines than some of their Hollywood counterparts. Also, the atmospheric music score by Norbert Schneider adds more quality to an already impressive film.

Stalingrad is an excellent film, that I think should be immediately added to your own collection. Although it portrays the harsh reality of war, which can be very brutal in places, the film has a very good script which shows that this film is not just about an historic battle the story is that of the individuals who actually took part in it. It’s this character development and the superb battle scenes that make this film a true classic.

Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD
Picture 1.77:1 Fullscreen Picture quality ok
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo "dubbed" soundtrack
Features Filmographies
Theatrical trailer
Stills gallery
Verdict Picture quality is ok but a better transfer would have shown the full quality of this film, as it looked "flat" in places, which was a bit disappointing when it came to the battle scenes. Some features on the battle itself would have been interesting especially from a German point of view. A commentary track would also have been good but I don’t know how easy it would be considering it’s a foreign film, but it has been done before (ie: Das Boot). Let’s hope people start to realise that this is a classic and so gets the DVD treatment it deserves sometime in the future.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Ben Nevis Back Top Home