Film Title: Stalingrad 3D
Director: Fedor Bondarchuk
Starring: Petr Fedorov, Yanina Studilina, Dmitriy Lysenkov, Aleksey Barabash
Running Time: 131 min
Nobody did colossus better than the Soviet Union. So it’s only right and proper that Fedor Bondarchuk’s new film is a grandiose affair, populated by some 900 extras and historical re-enactors, crowded with gargantuan set pieces and fronted by international stars August Diehl ( Inglourious Basterds ) and Thomas Kretschmann ( Resident Evil ). It’s unlike any other representation of the Great Patriotic War, and not only on account of the director’s spectacular use of the 3D Imax format.
The greatest Soviet-era war films, stretching from Grigori Chukhrai’s Ballad of a Soldier (1959) to Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985), traded on hardships and tragedy. Stalingrad 3D takes a print-the-legend approach.
It’s 1942. Stalingrad is now decimated and overrun by dastardly Nazis. A spectacular sequence follows Red Army troops – most of whom are on fire – marching on across the Volga. When the logician Aleksandr Zinovyev coined the aspirational phrase Homo Sovieticus , these are the kind of indomitable chaps he meant. “Ah ha!” a soldier notes later: the can-do Russians know how to avoid head lice while the Germans are eaten alive.
The action shores up in an apartment block, where five plucky comrades take refuge and pot-shots at the occupiers. They’re aided and abetted by 18-year-old Katya (Maria Smoyakov), an even pluckier orphan, who soon brings out the troops’ softer side. Across town, the German command is staffed by stock characters, including a barking Nazi colonel (Heiner Lauterbach)and a token “honorable” Prussian captain (Thomas Kretschmann). Well, honourable if we overlook the raping.
As with Bondarchuk’s impressive Afghan war drama The 9th Company , the viewer must have a high tolerance, if not love, of celluloid sentiment. Angelo Badalamenti’s score is positively dripping as it articulates every moment of bromance and noble sacrifice. Between shellings there are many, many dewy-eyed exchanges, two romantic subplots and a whole lot of bonding.
It’s not subtle, and the bombastic presentation can work against the film’s saccharine leanings. But the set design and the effects are genuinely impressive, and even the least nuanced scenes are not without their mushy charms.