'Stalingrad' recalls what movie experience should be
During World War II, the Soviet Union lost over 20 million people in the fighting. The Germans attempted to take the U.S.S.R. in a blitzkrieg but failed, and the fighting that raged for the next few years was brutal, intense and straight up crazy with the people of the Soviet Union pulling out all of the stops to protect their homeland from the Nazi invasion.
Stalingrad takes a snippet of the fighting from one of the bloodiest battles ever known and gives it a human face. The movie, however, does not open in 1942 as you might expect. It opens in Modern Japan just after the earthquake and tsunami. Russian aid workers are attempting to rescue five Germans trapped in rubble that could collapse any minute.
The Russians establish contact, and one German asks that the Russian in contact with them keep talking to them. She begins to cry because her father is dead. The Russian tells her that she shouldn’t cry; he has five fathers and they are all dead. She says that is an impossibility, and he tells the tale of his fathers’ parts in the Battle of Stalingrad.
This is the epic, beautiful, special effects spectacular that Hollywood could only wish to produce. It is told in true Russian style with no need to pay homage to any Hollywood conventions, and for most Americans, this will be a new story – World War II from a Russian perspective.
Stalingrad shows the brutality of war without being the gorefest it could have been, and it shows the less noisy parts of war that people use to keep as much of their humanity as they can. The film also shows how war degrades human beings and strips them of their humanity.
Stalingrad is not without its flaws. The narrator may have been unnecessary, and it is sometimes difficult to tell who the Germans are and who the Russians are. However, the first attack of the Russians against the Germans is breath taking as are most of the battle sequences. IMAX and 3D made this a truly immersive experience – the exact experience that going to a movie should be.
I was excited to see Stalingrad because I lived in Volgograd, which was known as Stalingrad before the fall of the Soviet Union. I had heard the tales of Soviet heroism and the crazy things that they did to hold the Germans from getting a foothold at Stalingrad. None of the stories that I remember were depicted in this film. However, this is the type of film that we need more of, and I highly recommend it. It is subtitled, which is a nice reminder that there is more than just English in this world.