Published on August 14th, 2008 | by Chris0
Stalingrad: The Attack, The Kessel, The Doom (2003)
Stalingrad. The name conjures up many images, none of them pleasant. This 2003 three-part documentary explores the fiasco that was the Battle of Stalingrad, through interviews with survivors on both sides, reenactments, and still imagery. Produced in Germany, I was actually surprised how frank it was, and also on how apolitical it was. Neither side (the Nazis or the Russians) were portrayed as particularly “good” or “evil”, but rather both armies got equal treatment. That is to say, only the terrible facts and the stories from those who were there, and how they remembered it.
For those wondering what I’m talking about, in 1942 the Nazis made a huge push into southwest Russia, heading for the oilfields on one front, and attempting to take the city bearing the name of Hitler’s archenemy, Stalingrad. The fighting was intense and bloody, and the Germans spent the winter pinned down in “the Kessel”, surrounded. It turned out to be the bloodiest winter of the war.
What really makes this film compelling, and curious, is the varied yet familiar stories and opinions shared by the interviewees. The terror of the events is evident in these mens’ eyes as they recall the battles, and the desperation of their situation. You can feel the survivor’s guilt in some of their tales of escaping the Kessel via airlift.
I’ve read some other reviews which seem averse to the producers (of this DVD) decision to overdub the interviewees with their English translation. I didn’t mind this at all, in fact, I didn’t find it distracting or demeaning in the least. It’s a documentaary, and you can still hear the original voice and all the emotion underneath the dub. Stop nitpicking!
The facts surrounding that winter and the events were all quite interested. I learned a great deal about the battle that I never knew, except from pop-culture fare like Enemy at the Gates and the like. Sure the sniper battle aspect is touched on, but there was so much more to the story. The near coverup of the defeat by the Germans, the conflict between Hitler and the 6th Army command, the role of the neighboring Balkan states in the fight…. Things that we don’t hear about.
The first episode, “The Attack”, chronicles the German offensive, and the eventual pincer move which left them cut off. “The Kessel,” part two, refers to what the cut-off Germans called their situation, aka “The Cauldron.” A place of no escape. In “The Doom,” we see the events which led to the inevitable defeat of the 6th Army.
I really can’t say much else about it. It’s a documentary, there’s no other way to put it, but its a very, very good one. I wouldn’t suggest it for younger, even high-school, audiences, as some of the stock footage, still images, and eye-witness accounts can get rather grisly and emotional. Neither is it particularly “exciting”, but that’s how it should be.
If you want a good fact-filled few hours of hardcore education about an event of World War II that we in the west don’t hear much about, then Stalingrad: The Attack, The Kessel, The Doom is one I’d highly recommend.
(I *think* this might be a clip from this series, but I’m not positive…)
(and yeah, to those who recommended I review “Stalingrad”, I put the wrong one at the top of my Netflix queue! doh. I should be getting the 1993 film soon.)
Stalingrad The Eastern Front experienced the viciousness of war on a scale of unimaginable horror and brutality. The bloodiest and most savage fighting took place in Stalingrad between August 1942 and February 1943…
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audience Rating: Unrated
Manufacturer: Synapse Films
Original Release Date:
- Albrecht Appelt
- Lidia Arazkaja
- Richard Bäuerle
- Hermann Behet
- Winrich Behr
Stalingrad [World War II] [English Subtitles] 
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Summary: If you want a good fact-filled few hours of hardcore education about an event of World War II that we in the west don't hear much about, then Stalingrad: The Attack, The Kessel, The Doom is one I'd highly recommend.