Friday, January 10, 2014

Stalingrad 3D

This is a thing. Russian filmmakers produced a movie about the battle of Stalingrad in IMAX format. Real 3D. And not only that, they also took a full swing at the asthetics of "300" with it, including the soundtrack. Have a look at the trailer and don't mind the Russian text; there's no dialogue other than the contemporary monologue in the background anyway:

Yes, this is really a thing. And it cries for some analysis after the break.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. First things first, what we can judge from the trailer. The visuals are obviously reminiscent of "300", with the whole "slowing down and then speeding up"-thing, supported by an anachronistic but captivating soundtrack appropriate for the visuals. The movie seems to support characters from both sides, but the Germans seem to fulfill the role of clear enemies, given that the major character we see is an archetypical "evil officer-henchman"-type and that there are shots of German soldiers committing war crimes (not that this wouldn't be historically accurate, just noting). Civilians are also prominently featured, most of the time armed or in need of protection, so I guess there's a partisan plot involved as well. As for the rest, the action scenes seem to great to watch. 

The movie is the first fully non-American film produced in IMAX, and was praised upon reception in Russia for "stunning visuals, sound editing, music, and acting, but at the same time criticized for direction and melodramatic plot", according to Wikipedia. Given the synopsis of the movie, a "dramatic love story against the backdrop of the battle", I believe this instantly. While sound design and visuals emulate "300" heavily, the plot seems to be heading for "Pearl Habor". While both films were relative commercial successes, they disappointed heavily in the arts department and left critics of all colors wanting. The reactions in Russia themselves are pretty mixed, which is surprising given the obviously patriotic undercurrent of the thing ("six brothers in arms defending the core of their motherland", official quote) and the stance that the Russian historical consciousness currently has on the subject, using World War II and the patriotic fight against the Nazis to legitimize the Putin regime. 

There are only two other major movies about Stalingrad that I know of: first, the German movie "Stalingrad", dating from 1993, which focusses exclusively on the German side of the fight and has kind of a revisionist stance, with the usual image of the brave fighting German soldier in a hopeless combat environment led by corrupt and inapt commanders, and the other is "Enemy at the Gates", which I strongly dislike for its cliches in this post. A real focus on the Soviet perspective is therefore lacking and would be interesting, but it seems unlikely that the movie delivers on it. The melodramatic love-story-approach shows they're playing it safe, with an eye on the international market, and historical accuracy won't be a thing with a plot like that and the elements we saw in the trailer. 

However, this does not automatically discount the movie as bullshit, of course, since "Django" took some liberties with facts as well and managed to present a stunning critique of Slaver's South. But my guts tell me that this movie won't be in any way interesting in that department, since otherwise, in the current political climate in Russia, it wouldn't have been made or reviewed like this.

Again however, the movie is a prime example for my thesis underlining this whole blog (see here and here): that there is a global popular culture emerging, using the same visual and audio codes across cultures, uniting us all in being able to understand them perfectly. I don't need to know anything about the battle of Stalingrad to see this movie, I'm pretty sure of it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)