Columbia Pictures released Stalingrad in America on February 28th, and it will continue running this week. Stalingrad is Russia’s first IMAX film, the highest grossing Russian movie of all time, and was made entirely in 3D. The highly esteemed film was Russia’s submission for Best Foreign Language film in the Academy Awards.
The director, Fedor Bondarchuk is known in Russia for his 2005 directorial debut, 9th Company, a different military-based film that is focused on Soviet Army recruits in Afghanistan. The gene for quality filmmaking has clearly been passed down in this case, as Fedor’s father Sergei Bondarchuk won Best Foreign Language film for directing War and Peace (1969).
The World War II story Stalingrad tells the story of six Russian soldiers who are determined to save a strategic building from the destruction of the German Army. Their patriotic motivation to protect their homeland is driven by their personal love interests and shared brotherhood. The movie portrays the Battle of Stalingrad from a Russian point of view. The Battle of Stalingrad, a brutal fight between Nazi Germany and The Red Army over Stalingrad, began in 1942 and ended in 1943. Despite an estimated total of 1.7 to 2 million casualties, the Russian victory marked a turning point in the war.
The film stars include, Mariya Smolnikova, Yanina Studilina, Pyotr Fyodorov, and Thomas Kretschmann (known for King Kong and The Pianist). Written by Sergey Snezhkin and Ilya Tilkin, Stalingrad is based on chapters from Vasily Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate.
The trailer (below) suggests a slow build to a blood bath, resulting in army scenes of screaming and killing. Contrasted with touches of humanity (women covering their children’s eyes and a woman and man on the verge of kissing), the soldiers seem to be fueled to live by love.
Stalingrad and its heroes present something of a unique opportunity to American moviegoers. Cold War tensions have left most American cinema with a decidedly negative view of Russia and its people. In John G. Avildsen’s Rocky (1976), a sympathetic American, Rocky battles a cruel Soviet. In the 007 films, Bonds’ enemies include “Red Grant” in From Russia With Love (1963) and the ex-KGB assassin, Valentin Zukovsky in The World is Not Enough (1999). Additionally, David Cronenber’s Eastern Promises (2007) perpetuates a negative Russian stereotype, as it revolves around a violent Russian mob rape.
Catch Stalingrad in an IMAX 3D theatre this week. This action-based war movie has been released exclusively for one-week in America, and was previously released in Russia on October 10, 2013.