There have been some classic war movies over the years which, instead of glorifying conflict deal with the madness of war. Vietnam spurned a whole plethora of these, most notably Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home. There have also been many powerful anti-war films about the World Wars including Paths of Glory, Oh! What a Lovely War and Le Grand Illusion. Joseph Vilsmaier’s Stalingrad is up there with Come and See as one of the finest.
After a period of leave in Italy, a platoon of German soldiers are ordered to fight on the Eastern Front at Stalingrad. After a successful campaign in North Africa the men are introduced to the new platoon leader Lieutenant Hans von Witzland (Thomas Kretschmann). Reiser (Dominique Horwitz), Rollo (Jochen Nickel), Otto (Sylvester Groth), Gege (Sebastian Rudolph) and the rest of the men are less than impressed with having a fresh untried officer in charge. After a turgid struggle to take a factory they find themselves surrounded. After Reiser demands medical treatment for a fellow soldier they are all given punishment duty by the obnoxious Hauptmann Haller (Dieter Okras) When they are permitted to rejoin the Sixth Army they discover that the tide has turned against the Third Reich.
The Battle for Stalingrad was one of the most brutal and bloody of World War II, more than a million people were killed in action, starved or froze to death. Joseph Vilsmaier’s precise and complex film manages to portray the futility and despair of war. There’s no glory, just the depressing realisation that so many lives were wasted. Shot on location in several countries over a long period of time, the care and attention taken to shoot Stalingrad is evident in the final result. What makes it such a powerful anti-war film is the authenticity and realism instilled by the strong cast and great cinematography.
Stalingrad is released on Blu-rey and DVD by Arrow films and is out on November 3rd.