My thoughts on the 1993 wartime epic Stalingrad can be found over at Flickering Myth… reposted below…
The key moral concerns and central aspects of Stalingrad can be seen as part of the vast and ongoing period of German self-reflection that followed the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the unification of East and West. It is a film seen through the eyes of the everyday soldier, the sort of conflicted and oppressed army member who could reasonably claim to be ‘only following orders’ but at some point (or so we are led to believe) will justifiably break rank and abandon the party line.
A strong sense of the pure claustrophobic horror of this World War 2 turning point is made explicit in this historical epic. Amidst the blood drenched cityscapes of the Russian location there is paranoia and a calling to question of every impulse and moral ambiguity. In a sense, the film is simply saying ‘war is Hell’. But there is also a clear message that the German military were also amongst those who were abused by the Nazi war machine, a fact that carries substantial weight in this culturally dated but nevertheless impressive drama.
Featuring a strong cast of performers who believably portray this Godforsaken location with emotion and character, the film is full of characters being instructed to ‘shoot anything that moves’, with the mixed messages and confusion of battle coming through as loud and clear as the firing squads.
Beginning in the summer of 1942 as the German Army are relaxing on the Italian island of Sardinia, the set up to the film starts off in amazingly relaxed fashion. The German army are a long way from the Eastern Front, but after some more wine in the sunshine that is exactly where they are going. From then on, it is pretty much terrifying battle scarred action all the way. The film takes a fairly large horror film element, which casts paranoia and close-combat isolation together in fantastically dark fashion. There is even a shambling Russian soldier who edges along in the underground catacombs like some kind of a Soviet zombie.
The reality of war and the wounded is brought intensely home, but the central scene of the film comes around half way through when a soldier declares “We’re not Nazis” and another character replies “But you went along with it.” This central question of whether this is worse is a troubling philosophical point that goes far beyond even the worst excesses of blood, violence and gore.
An important and moving film, Stalingrad plays a vital part of the German artistic industries process of dealing with this most difficult part of the nation’s history and consciousness.