Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Morning Movie Review

Last night, I watched Stalingrad, a German movie about the battle of Stalingrad during World War II. Netflix recommended this one because I had enjoyed Das Boot, another German movie about World War II, this time about the crew of a German submarine.

I should revise what I just wrote about this movie being about the battle of Stalingrad. Stalingrad just provides the backdrop for a war movie about a small group of soldiers, here a newly-minted lieutenant and some of the men in his platoon. They just so happen to be fighting in Stalingrad, although one gets very little flavor for the overall course of the battle (except in one scene when the lieutanant demands to be taken to headquarters to protest the arrest of some of his men for threatening a medic at a hospital and overhears various staff members discussing the two Russian breakthroughs north and south of Stalingrad that resulted in the German Sixth Army being surrounded there). One does get a sense of what the battle was like for individual soldiers, with lots of scenes of street-to-street and house-to-house fighting and extreme privation, particularly at the end just before the surrender.

I get the idea that the filmmaker wanted this movie to be the World War II equivalent of All Quiet on the Western Front. The soldiers in this movie have the same alienation from non-military society and the same sense of hopelessness as do the soldiers in All Quiet; and towards the end, the viewer wonders if there is any point to any of the characters surviving their ordeal: they might as well be dead. There is a lot of tragedy in other World War II movies like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers (I know, I know; Band of Brothers was a miniseries. It's still movie-like, though.), but there are actually bright spots in both of them. More than that, the tragedy has a point. Not so with Stalingrad. It's unremitting pain. The only scene that doesn't hurt is the opening one when the unit is recuperating from its time in North Africa in a beautiful resort town on the coast of Italy. I'd say that the filmmakers achieved what they were trying to achieve with this movie, and I'd even say that it was much above average. I just can't say that I enjoyed it.

Edit: Man, those IMDB images aren't very good, are they?

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