movie-review logo az world news

STALINGRAD (1993, NJE) – 9/10

Until Edward Berger made “Nothing New in the West”, Joseph Vilsmaier’s film was probably the best known and best German (anti)war film. And while the action of the film based on Remarque’s famous novel takes place during the First World War, Vilsmaier’s film deals with probably the most famous and bloodiest battle of all time, the Battle of Stalingrad. And while in the last sixty or more years we have had countless opportunities to watch films on the subject of World War II told from the perspective of the Allies, “Stalingrad” is one of the first films in which we follow the horrors of war from the perspective of the Germans. Although Frank Wisbar made the film “Stalingrad: Dogs, Do You Want to live Forever?” in the late fifties, Vilsmaier’s film is still the best known and best on the subject.

It is a superb depiction of tragedy, horror and the slow realization of the coming disaster and the awakening from the delusions and crazy ideas they believed. The battle, which lasted from August 1942 until February 1943, significantly directed the course of the war and hinted that disaster was brewing for the Nazis. A group of German soldiers who in the summer of 1942 were enjoying the Ligurian sun and a well-deserved rest after the victory in the first battle of El Alamein in Africa did not think that something like that was in the works. It seems to them that nothing can stop them and that it is only a matter of time when the war will be over and end with their victory. On all sides, the Nazis are penetrating like through a road, conquering territories, winning victory after victory, and no one suspects that the course of the war could change very soon.

The enjoyment will be short-lived for this experienced division because they were all soon sent to the eastern front, to Stalingrad where Hitler had just ordered a major offensive against the strategically extremely important city. Whoever controls Stalingrad (today’s Volgograd in southern Russia) has access to the rich oil fields of the Caucasus, and very soon these German soldiers will realize that they are facing a battle unlike any they have fought before. “Stalingrad” was a film that brilliantly shows the extent of that disaster and what that merciless battle looked like, in which the toothy winter once again proved to be the best Soviet-Russian ally. While German soldiers starve to death and freeze in the ruins of a city completely razed to the ground, officers in secret hideouts live in prosperity and feast. While it is clear to ordinary soldiers and lower officers that this battle is lost and that it is impossible to reverse the outcome, constant orders from Berlin come from the Führer that there is no let up and that Stalingrad must be conquered at all costs. It is clear to everyone who is on the front line and in the surrounding area that the commander, who until yesterday was considered a genius, a visionary whose plan will surely come true, has completely lost his reality.

But now it becomes obvious that they were completely wrong, misled, delusional and that for this maniac they represent nothing and that it is completely irrelevant to Hitler how many people will sacrifice for something that is impossible to get. The production of “Stalingrad” is an exceptional film and obviously no money was spared, and the filming was certainly not at all pleasant since the second half of the film takes place during the winter. It is interesting that one of the main roles was played by Thomas Kretschmann, and here he is the young lieutenant Von Witzland, a platoon commander who realizes that the German army no longer has anything to do with honor and that it behaves completely opposite to what it should. Twenty years later, the same Kretschmann starred in the Russian film of the same name by Fedor Bondarchuk, the son of the legendary Soviet actor, screenwriter and director Sergej Bondarchuk, but that “Stalingrad” was one of those weak, propagandistic films.