Video: Art Pictures Studio
Stalingrad is not only the first Imax 3D film to ever have been released from Russia, but also the first domestic film in decades to beat Hollywood to becoming Russia’s top-grossing movie of the year. Although director Fedor Bondorchuk should take great credit for this, he should perhaps also take the blame for what was a painfully bad story.
The battle of Stalingrad is by no means under-covered when it comes to film, with the likes of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2001 ‘Enemy at the Gates’, starring Jude Law probably the best known in the western world. Those who are familiar with the battle will know that it was a gruesome affair as Soviet forces attempted to reclaim Stalingrad from Nazi troops. However, with ruthless Soviet forces coming up against Nazis it is always interesting to see how the battle will be portrayed, especially by a Russian director.
The film has a very bizarre opening scene as you witness Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, that although set up to allow a flashback recalling the narrator’s ‘five fathers’ who fought in the battle, has large portions of the audience thinking they have stumbled into the wrong theatre. From there we are transported down the Volga River to an apartment block which has been seized during an unsuccessful attempt to drive the Nazi’s away. It is here we meet 18 year old Katya (Mariya Smolnikova), the narrator’s mother who has been orphaned during the battle. Throughout the film in what can only be described as ludicrously melodramatic attempts at inserting romance all of the six men (it’s not clear which the narrator doesn’t consider one of the ‘five fathers’) in turn fall in love with Katya.
Stalingrad is peppered with war clichés but none more so than Nazi captain Peter Kahn (Thomas Kretschmann), who you may recognise as German officer Hans Von Witzland from the 1993 film ‘Stalingrad’ (talk about type-casting). Kahn is perhaps one of the most comically evil villains in a film you will ever see as he attempts to reclaim the apartment block.
Despite what is a terribly unengaging story-line the film does gain a lot of merit in other areas. The way in which Stalingrad is able to communicate the relentless horror of war to the audience is exceptional, which is made all the more persuasive by the genius of its shots. It is obvious that a large amount of the $30million budget was used in aesthetics rather than depth as the 3D element regularly pulls the audience in, making you feel as if you are in the midst of the battle itself. If only the vacuous storyline didn’t immediately push the audience back out again, this would be a truly wonderful film.