STALINGRAD: THE BATTLE ON SCREEN
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the major turning points in the Second World War. It is 1943. For several weeks, German troops have been attempting to make a breakthrough into Moscow and the Caucasus. The gateway lies in Stalingrad. But both within and around the Kremlin leader’s namesake city, the Soviet army put up unexpected resistance and finally succeed in overthrowing the Nazi enemy.
For seven decades, numerous fictional and documentary films have retold the history of the confrontation that would change the course of this world conflict. Sometimes propaganda, sometimes anti-establishment… the wartime context means that these films should be approached with caution—they are rarely unbiased.
The Battle of Stalingrad is particularly worthy of a Spotlight session at this first year of the War on Screen festival in providing a synthesis of the various perspectives on the subject. Be they Russian or German, French or American, the various points of view expressed will provide a broad understanding of a subject that has frequently been addressed on the big screen. While some of these films take place at the dawn of the final assault, following either the Soviet or German troops (each side made up of a mixture of nationalities gathered over the course of their conquests) into the battlefield—which would claim the lives of nearly a million in just six months—others centre their action at the heart of the onslaught. But the common link between all of these films is their characters, simultaneously strong yet unnerved, overcome yet merciless in the face of the violent frenzy.
The four films under the spotlight therefore include a German work, with Joseph Vilsmaier’s 1992 film Stalingrad and two Russian films, namely Fridrickh Ermler’s Cannes Grand Prize winner The Turning Point from 1946 and Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1975 work, They Fought for Their Country. Bondarchuk’s son, Fedor, is in fact working on Stalingrad 3D, a major Russian blockbuster due for release in 2014.