"Enemy at the Gates" by William Craig was a great history of the Battle of Stalingrad as retold by living participants. "War of the Rats" was a powerful, moving dramatization of Zaitsev and the Soviet snipers who fought at Stalingrad, as well as the Germans who opposed them. I thought that the movie would be based on at least the novel. I was disgusted to find out that the producer/director/writers chose to throw both of these memorable books out the window and instead manufacture their own vision of the battle that provided absolutely no historical insight, replacing the great stories of the two books with warmed over putrid anti-communism.
The movie goer gets no insight into the complexities of why Soviet soldiers fought and defeated the Germans at Stalingrad. Instead we are given the impression that the only reason any Soviet soldiers fought there was due to the threat of being machine gunned by the Stalinist "blocking units". Then suddenly, one commissar has a brilliant idea to "create a hero who will be an example" and the whole battle turns on Vasily Zaitsev. None of the other real acts of heroism at Stalingrad are shown, such as the soldiers who held out for 53 days in "Pavlov's house".
Further, the main function of Zaitsev's publicity in the Red Army newspaper was to popularize sniper techniques. This was not shown. Nor the sniper school set up where snipers were "mass produced" to harrass the Germans. The heroic deeds and harrowing adventures of the real Tania Chernov are never mentioned. Her being blown out of the boat on the Volga, surviving the journey through the sewers, behind German lines, her responsibility for the loss of several fellow snipers and Zaitsev's anger with her for that, all would have made great scenes.
The tension and suspense of snipers hunting each other for days was completely missing as well as the long range aspect of these duels. The ludicrous scene at the end where Konig and Zaitsev confront each other "High Noon" style was absurd. No sniper would expose himself like that, let alone battle hardened troops by that point in the battle, even Germans.
The insipid speech by Commissar Danilov at the end about "there will always be rich and poor" was apparently thrown in to reassure the viewers that the director and producer do not sympathize with "Communism".
All in all, this movie was a travesty both as art and as history. It did a severe disservice to both. Soviet soldiers who fought and died at Stalingrad did not only do so out of fear of NKVD retaliation. Patriotism against a genocidal invader was a real part of it. And yes, many actually believed that they were fighting for a better future, that they were saving socialism. Why is it that Craig's book and Robbins novel can convey these complexities of the battle of Stalingrad while all we get from the movie is an insipid love triangle, rediculous "sniper tactics" and lots of good old fashioned anti-communism. You don't have to cover up the truth about the crimes of Stalinism to make an accurate portrayal of Russians in the battle of Stalingrad. But you don't have to churn out an anti-communist diatribe either. The truth will not be found in either. Certainly not in the sorry cinematic adaptation of "Enemy at the Gates". The only thing it has in common with the history is the title.
Enemy at the Gates
Drama / History
Enemy at the Gates
Drama / History
In World War II, the fall of Stalingrad will mean the collapse of the whole country. The Germans and Russians are fighting over every block, leaving only ruins behind. The Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev stalks the Germans, taking them out one by one, thus hurting the morale of the German troops. The political officer Danilov leads him on, publishing his efforts to give his countrymen some hope. But Vassili eventually start to feel that he can not live up to the expectations on him. He and Danilov fall in love with the same girl, Tanya, a female soldier. From Germany comes the master sniper König to put an end to the extraordinary skilled Russian sniper.
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September 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm