It's tempting to call this harrowing picture a World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front: both films take the perspective of ordinary German soldiers at ground level. Stalingrad surveys the misery of the battl... more »e 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 which 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 Horton« less
Jean W. from JORDANVILLE, NY Reviewed on 7/26/2017...
Knowing the story of Stalingrad, I was eager for this move and waited for years for it to come. It was worth the wait.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
My "favorite" war film
Chapulina R | Tovarischi Imports, USA/RUS | 04/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before there was "Saving Private Ryan", the most graphic and visceral cinematic battlefield carnage was depicted in "Stalingrad". Ironically, the raw realism which drew rave reviews for SPR had elicited little more than horror and negativity for "Stalingrad". I'm not a sadistic guts'n'gore affictionado, but war is brutal and needs to be presented in an unsanitized manner. "Stalingrad" has been, and remains, my favorite war film. It is from the German producers of "Das Boot", and presents the point of view of the common Wehrmacht soldiers of Paulus' 6th Army, who were abandoned to freeze or be slaughtered in the bombed-out ruins of the city named for Stalin. Neither the Germans nor the Russians are portrayed as heroes or supermen in this film; there is only the desperation of fighters who are forbidden retreat. The anti-Nazi views of the producers are well-known, and occasionally a bit heavy-handed, but there is an admirable attempt to stick to realism. Even the Russians are presented accurately: from the presence of the female corpsman (yes, there were thousands of Russian women combatants at Stalingrad), to the playing of the phonograph song Temnaya Noch', to Stalin's cruel Edict that "there are no POW's -- only deserters". The tense ceasefires to allow tending of the wounded are also historically accurate, and are documented in various memoirs. The T-34 tank model depicted is, unfortunately, an anacronism. But the hand-to-hand fighting through the rubble of the buildings, streets, and sewers is realistic. As is the freezing Russian winter which sapped the energy and morale of the stranded Germans reduced to scurrying like rats and eating their own horses. From the cavalier attitudes of the would-be conquerers on the train to the desperation of the hordes of would-be escapees at the airport, this film takes us along with these German soldiers, allowing us to sympathize with their plight and even form a certain detached liking for them. The futility of their campaign haunts the poignant, sorrowful ending of the film (one can't call it a climax), as Russia Herself swallows her violators."
Stark, unforgiving look at the horrors of war
Christopher Griffen | Pleasanton, CA United States | 06/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stalingrad precedes Saving Private Ryan as a visceral look at the horrors of war. Besieged by the Germans for months, the bitterly contested city looks appropriately as if it's been hit by an atomic bomb. The film relates not only how hard both the Germans and Russians fought over this city, but how the cruel Russian Winter exacerbated the situation and made the Germans' attempt futile.The acting is very good in this film. We aren't meant to be sympathetic to the German soldiers. They are merely cogs in the Nazi war machine. Fallible characters who show both courage and cowardice in the process of the story. I found that it was best to watch the movie in its native German with English subtitles. You get a better feel for the emotional content of the words that are spoken, even if you are not fluent in the language.The production values are excellent, as are the sets and costumes. This film, to my knowledge, is thoroughly convincing and makes you feel as if you've been drawn into the era to witness the terrible battle as it nears its conclusion. At the end, we see the beginnings of the terrible march to Siberia by German prisoners. Only five percent survived, but I'm sure the Russians would have been satisfied had none of them made the trip.The only thing I might have wanted to see was a bit more of the perspective of the Russian troops, but I guess that might have made a long film a bit too long.Truly an unforgiving and brutal anti-war film and not to be missed!"
Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? _
Leonard Fleisig | Here, there and everywhere | 11/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That was the question Job once asked himself in the Bible. If Job had been alive and on the eastern front in World War II he may have found the answer to his question - Stalingrad. The hellish battle of Stalingrad, as seen through the eyes of a small band of German soldiers, is the subject of director Joseph Vilsmaier's visually stunning and brutal film Stalingrad.
Stalingrad begins on the Italian coast where a German platoon enjoys leave after the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa. Recovering from wounds and enjoying wine and German women while sitting along a bright, sunny, beach the men are called to order. A new opportunity for glory awaits them in Russia. Next stop Stalingrad. We see the platoon boarding a train and entering a tunnel in Italy and exiting a tunnel into Russia. We see the platoon's new officer Lt. Witzland writing home to his wife. A stranger to battle, Witzland writes of the glories to come and of his hopes that he will prove himself to the battle-hardened men under his command. As we shall see, Witzland does indeed prove himself but not in the manner he could ever have predicted.
Witzland's baptism starts immediately upon disembarkation on the outskirts of Stalingrad. Horrified at the mistreatment of some Red Army prisoners he protests only to find himself knocked into the mud and sneered at by the powers that be. Word quickly spreads that this callow youth is a "friend of the Russians" and only his father's military background saves him.
The platoon is ordered to take a factory and the horror begins. Amidst flame throwers, horrible deaths and raw sewage all thoughts of romantic heroism evaporate and Witzland soon learns that survival is the one and only rational, if hopeless, goal one should take into war. Witzland's ultimate humanity never deserts him and, contrary to orders, tries to arrange a brief truce so that the Russians and Germans can gather their wounded. The truce is horribly boggled and the platoon's descent into hell continues in lock step with Stalingrad's descent into a frozen Russian winter. The platoon is arrested for trying to jump the line to get one of their men some medication and they find themselves doing duty as human mine sweepers.
The German army is soon encircled by a Red Army break out and despite the devastation they know is forthcoming the fanatics among them commit even greater horrors. As the men wait for a break through that never comes the excesses of the fanatics continues. The appearance of the men devolves along with the situation. The end, the apocalypse that awaits the trapped Germany army is inevitable; only 6,000 men out of more than 250,000 survived the battle or their imprisonment in the USSR. Witzland's final attempt to reclaim his humanity is a stunning one.
The above outline does not do justice to the power of Stalingrad. Although seen through a German lens that captures no small amount of the humanity of the common German foot soldier, it does not flinch from showing the horrors unleashed in the name of the German people, the Volk, and overseen by a series of true-believers for whom no act of violence is too sadistic or too meaningless. Portraying the differences between the typical German foot soldier and the S.S. for example is not new. However, Vilsmaier handles the distinction in an effective and (seemingly) realistic way that neither excuses the behavior nor tries to limit attribution of horrific acts to a small group of less than human soldiers. Brutality is omnipresent but that brutality renders the flashes of humanity evidenced by the platoon all the more stunning.
Stalingrad is a haunting film and one that will linger long after the final credits run. "
One of the most brutally brilliant WWII movies ever made.
Leonard Fleisig | 10/02/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Long before Saving Private Ryan, Stalingrad was released in limited distribution in the United States. I was fortunate enough to see it then and was completely stunned, here was a WWII movie that was unlike any American WWII movie that I had ever seen. Stalingrad traces a German platoon from the beginning of the Stalingrad campaign to its cold, horrible end, and it is a measure of the talents of the actors, the directors and the writers of this film that you actually begin to empathize with the characters in the film, even though they are members of the Wehrmacht. The scenes of urban combat in the movie are horrific and claustrophobic, again inviting comparison with Saving Private Ryan (although it should be the other way around). American war movies about the Second World War, even ones such as Saving Private Ryan or Catch-22 which do not glorify the military or the war have a different sense than German war movies such as Stalingrad and Das Boot because, let's face it, we won WWII and as the saying goes, "the winners write history". I can't really put my finger on this more precisely but I will say that this is an excellent movie, hard to watch at times, but still an excellent movie. END"
This movie is no Hollywood Production
Juliane Diehl | Germany | 06/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am referring to the previous entries which are in my opinion wrongful and incompetent. I think the intention of the director Joseph Vilsmaier was not to show a "gallant" and "heroic" war movie. If some people miss these gallant and heroic battle scenes during the last 50 minutes then I suggest rather watching Pearl Harbour, Arnold Schwarzenegger movies or any other Hollywood productions with a lacking historic background. Other than the previous author assumed, Stalingrad is no Hollywood but a German production. In my opinion the movie fully fulfils its purpose of an anti war movie and is based on an excellent research in German - Russian history. How can I know that? My Grandfather has been to Stalingrad he didn't want to see the movie because he was frightened that this will bring back all the bad memories. However, my grandfather told me a lot about the experiences he made in Russia and theses stories were neither gallant nor heroic, but cruel and frightening. To sum it up: If you need some easy entertainments with some heroic good looking soldiers - rather watch Pearl Harbour! "