1990s Stalingrad (1993)

Published on August 20th, 2008 | by Chris

5

Stalingrad (1993)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On August 20, 2008
Last modified:October 3, 2012

Summary:

Stalingrad is a stark depiction of what it must have been like during the battle of the same name. Full of vivid, graphic, and disturbing imagery, it paints a depressing picture, and rightly so.

Stalingrad (1993)I'm not even sure how to begin with (or end, or even put the stuff in the middle of) this review. On the one hand, Stalingrad is a stark depiction of what it must have been like during the battle of the same name. Full of vivid, graphic, and disturbing imagery, it paints a depressing picture, and rightly so. Not only in the production and effects, but the main characters, a squad of Germans, themselves get torn apart, inside and out, until the very end.

On the other hand, I found the film lacking in a few respects. The characters themselves don't seem to have much personality at all. The one exception might be the company Lieutenant, Witzland (Thomas Kretschmann.) He is the epitome of the man thrust into the heart of an evil situation, trying hopelessly to do the right thing, and it winds up the method of his destruction....

The squad is sent off to Stalingrad early on, Rohleder (Jochen Nickel), Muller (Sebastian Rudolph) and the rest think this will be the proverbial walk in the park, shouting at the Russian farmers from the train. They are, of course, in for a surprise.

They are thrust into the battle, and wind up in the typical standoff. They agree to a temporary cease-fire to get their wounded, and of course that goes terribly wrong, and they wind up capturing a few Russians, including a young boy. These guys seem to be a lot like them in most respects. They wind up in a lot of situations like this that prove typical in war movies. Whether or not they are reflective of actual events, these are the types of events we are shown. Nasty decisions have to be made, cruelties delivered, things done that under any circumstances would blacken your soul.

Maybe if I hadn't already seen the documentary on Stalingrad first, and didn't know what to expect it would have been a lot more compelling, shocking, and disturbing. But as is usually the case, the truth is stranger, and darker and more evil than fiction. I already had a picture in my mind of what these situations must've been like, and while this film went a long way towards realizing that, as dark and gritty as it was, it just didn't seem to measure up.

I found the first 2/3 to be mostly mechanical in that respect. However, as the squad is unable to make the last plane out, their situation enters a surreal nightmare from which there is no return. And *then* the film really starts to get interesting, and really quite good. The real madness begins when they intercept a supply drop before the commander (who has been a thorn in Witzland's side) can get to them. They wind up killing the officer, who informs them in desparation of his own personal stash.

They briefly escape the cold and starvation into a horde of supplies and relative luxury, and find a Russian woman prisoner, which the German officers have been using for less-than-honorable purposes. They free her, and as they share in their final moments of desparation and sadness, you really get a feel for what this picture is ultimately about.

It's about the waste and destruction and senseless loss of life that was put upon the city then, and which you'll find in any war. It's also a damning indictment of the Nazi regime, from the eyes of the soldiers who were forced to fight under it, whether or not they subscribed to that whole philosophy, which this squad did not.

I may as well spoil it for you. Nobody makes it out alive, whether by choice, by bullet, by painful degradation or simply freezing to death. The final scene with the two men frozen solid in the field is a heart-wrenching one, and sums it all up perfectly.

Nothing good came out of Stalingrad. In reality I mean. The only good thing to come out of this movie is a more-or-less accurate depiction of what it must have been like to be there. I can't say I enjoyed it, if you can even call it that, but it was certainly an interesting ride, especially the stark and surreal ending "act".

I wouldn't put Stalingrad on the same level as classics like Saving Private Ryan or other films lauded as "World War II Classics" though, as some have done. I don't know, to me, accuracy and realism doesn't necessarily mean a superb war film. I'm sure I'll draw some grief for that, but I just didn't like as much as a lot of people do.

Here's a clip from one of the more engaging battle scenes.

http://www.youtube.com/v/TZMHZBAUbqM

(Oh, and the guy with the wooden arm kept reminding me of the guy from Young Frankenstein. I could *not* get that out of my head, after he adjusts his arm a few times, you'll see what I mean!)


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Description

It's tempting to call this harrowing picture a World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front: both films take the perspective of ordinary German soldiers at ground level. Stalingrad surveys the misery of the battle of Stalingrad, the winter siege that cost the lives of almost one and a half million people, Russian defenders and German invaders alike...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand:
Manufacturer: Fox Lorber
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Dominique Horwitz
  • Thomas Kretschmann
  • Sebastian Rudolph
  • Dana Vávrová
  • Jochen Nickel

Reviews

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

293 of 297 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My "favorite" war film, April 9, 2000
By 
Chapulina R (Tovarischi Imports, USA/RUS) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stalingrad [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Before there was "Saving Private Ryan", the most graphic and visceral cinematic battlefield carnage was depicted in "Stalingrad". Ironically, the raw realism which drew rave reviews for SPR had elicited little more than horror and negativity for "Stalingrad". I'm not a sadistic guts'n'gore affictionado, but war is brutal and needs to be presented in an unsanitized manner. "Stalingrad" has been, and remains, my favorite war film. It is from the German producers of "Das Boot", and presents the point of view of the common Wehrmacht soldiers of Paulus' 6th Army, who were abandoned to freeze or be slaughtered in the bombed-out ruins of the city named for Stalin. Neither the Germans nor the Russians are portrayed as heroes or supermen in this film; there is only the desperation of fighters who are forbidden retreat. The anti-Nazi views of the producers are well-known, and occasionally a bit heavy-handed, but there is an... Read more
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142 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stark, unforgiving look at the horrors of war, June 18, 2001
By 
This review is from: Stalingrad (DVD)
Stalingrad precedes Saving Private Ryan as a visceral look at the horrors of war. Besieged by the Germans for months, the bitterly contested city looks appropriately as if it's been hit by an atomic bomb. The film relates not only how hard both the Germans and Russians fought over this city, but how the cruel Russian Winter exacerbated the situation and made the Germans' attempt futile.
The acting is very good in this film. We aren't meant to be sympathetic to the German soldiers. They are merely cogs in the Nazi war machine. Fallible characters who show both courage and cowardice in the process of the story. I found that it was best to watch the movie in its native German with English subtitles. You get a better feel for the emotional content of the words that are spoken, even if you are not fluent in the language.
The production values are excellent, as are the sets and costumes. This film, to my knowledge, is thoroughly convincing and makes you feel as if you've been... Read more
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133 of 138 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? _, November 13, 2005
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Stalingrad (DVD)
That was the question Job once asked himself in the Bible. If Job had been alive and on the eastern front in World War II he may have found the answer to his question - Stalingrad. The hellish battle of Stalingrad, as seen through the eyes of a small band of German soldiers, is the subject of director Joseph Vilsmaier's visually stunning and brutal film Stalingrad.

Stalingrad begins on the Italian coast where a German platoon enjoys leave after the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa. Recovering from wounds and enjoying wine and German women while sitting along a bright, sunny, beach the men are called to order. A new opportunity for glory awaits them in Russia. Next stop Stalingrad. We see the platoon boarding a train and entering a tunnel in Italy and exiting a tunnel into Russia. We see the platoon's new officer Lt. Witzland writing home to his wife. A stranger to battle, Witzland writes of the glories to come and of his hopes that he will prove himself to the... Read more
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Stalingrad (1993) Chris

Summary: Stalingrad is a stark depiction of what it must have been like during the battle of the same name. Full of vivid, graphic, and disturbing imagery, it paints a depressing picture, and rightly so.

3.5


User Rating: 4.7 (4 votes)


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



5 Responses to Stalingrad (1993)

  1. Leo Gustafsson says:

    I’m not one for being arguementative, but I found this film rather compelling. I was surprised at the accurate detail of equipment and uniforms in this picture, but then germans are known for being very good at techical procedures. I’d rank this right up there with my two personal favorites Talvisota and Rukajärven tie, Finnish language films (also subtitled) that show the grit and detirmination of the Finnish solidiers against the Soviets.

  2. For me this will always be one of my Top 10.
    Curious to watch one of those Leo mentions.

  3. murray flock says:

    I dare anyone to sit 8 rows back and not feel your stomach tighten up when the T34 tanks turn to face the Germans in their holes…having only 1 75mm anti tank gun and various small arms and contact mines…many soldiers ended up like the one who got the shakes after every firefight…ground into the earth by tank treads….

  4. Robert Torres says:

    Just finished watching this film and enjoyed it. It is after all a soldier’s story, about the horrors of war and an indictment of the officer class. It didn’t glorify fighting or even the Russian cause, just showing the fight in it’s bloody nakedness. I agree with Murray Flock that the scene with the T-34 tanks is one of the best overall in cinema. Some have been disappointed by the ending, but it was good, leaving one with the thought of the waste of life.

  5. B Hellqvist says:

    A reason why the movie is a bit disjointed is that it was planned to be released as a TV miniseries as well (the producers were also behind “Das Boot”, which was released both as a miniseries and a movie), but for some reason the series was scrapped. This might explain why there are some scenes which aren’t fully explained.

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