It's tempting to call the harrowing Stalingrad a World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front, since 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. Not unlike Spielberg's approach to Saving Private Ryan, German director Joseph Vilsmaier rarely steps outside the action to comment on the higher purpose of the war, assuming the audience is aware of the evil of the Nazi regime. Instead, we simply follow a group of soldiers as they endure a series of gut-wrenching episodes, events that have the tang of authenticity and horror. Vilsmaier has a taste for symbolism and surreal touches, which only add to the unsettling sense of insanity this movie conjures up so well. --Robert Hortonfrom£2.78 | RRP:
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Stalingrad Richard Benstead
After the United States of America, world poverty and inheritance tax the greatest evil on this tragic planet of ours must be the dubbing of foreign films into English. The mindless obliteration of the original German soundtrack on Stalingrad not only detracts from the authenticity of the original non-English production but presupposes the viewer is so lazy they are unable to read and watch at the same time. Moreover, it results in a noticeable clash between the visual sensations crafted by actors on a tangible set and the audio accompaniments by some foreigner in a warm studio.
Perhaps Stalingrad would have been a more enjoyable film had a version in German been available. However, its more likely that the dubbing is the just the cherry on top of a cake of poor acting and an overly melancholic screenplay. Just because Das Boot capably captures a claustrophobic form of warfare rarely explored in popular cinema, it does not mean that all German war films are insightful. Stalingrad"s insistence on tugging at the favourite clichés of the war film genre plainly proves this rule. War may indeed drive the respectable citizen to psychopathic inhumanity but if a director is unable to offer a fresh perspective they should leave the depictions to abler artists.
The actual battle on the frontlines of Stalingrad saw bloody sacrifice on cataclysmic levels and yet the filmed scenes of conflict are minimal in quantitative terms and then contrived to the point of viewer scepticism. Consequently, characterisation is rendered impossible. If the director is intentionally stating how the never-ending Russian winter left one doomed soldier of the Wehrmacht indistinguishable from another then he was foolish to attempt such an angle with a thinly-developed screenplay burdened by stilted dialogue.
War is bad; if Stalingrad is believed it"s also laughable.
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