The battle has been previously given film adaptations, most notably in the 1993 movie "Stalingrad," directed by German filmmaker Joseph Vilsmaier. However, a new effort from director Fyodor Bondarchuk tells the story of the battle from the perspective of the eventual victors, and the $30 million film represents the first fully 3D Russian movie and the first non-American movie shot for IMAX 3D.
The Battle of Stalingrad lasted for months and the Russian victory in 1943 led the way for the Allied victory in World War II. Estimates of casualties on both sides are up to 2 million soldiers and civilians. Superlative descriptions like "the bloodiest battle ever fought" or "turning point in the war" would make the battle immediately cinematic if the historical reality was not so intensely brutal.
The film takes place when Soviet forces are looking to recapture the other side of the Volga River from occupying Nazi forces in the war-ravaged city of Stalingrad, modern-day Volgograd. The initiative ultimately fails, and five soldiers end up trapped on the river's opposite bank, cut off from their compatriots. The comrades then end up in a house and find a young girl, played by Maria Smolnikova, who they then vow to protect to the death.
At an event Monday at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, or MAMM, the director and stars of the movie supported the film's upcoming wide release Thursday and showed photographs of the shooting process that took place more than a year ago. Bondarchuk is seen crouching in rubble at the project's expansive set built outside St. Petersburg. Indeed, the production of the movie and an emphasis on its firsts for Russian cinema seem focused on the larger than life. At Monday's event, Andrei Smelyakov, one of the stars of the film, told The Moscow Times about the process of filming "3D does not tolerate small movements." Bondarchuk has said the film, which had its official premieres in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Volgograd last week, represents an important moment for Russian cinema, and it has already earned the nomination for the country's entry for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.
While the mood around the film may be celebratory of the project's ambition and scale, those involved say the movie is not a triumphalist portrait of the heroics that led to a Soviet victory in 1942. The movie features a band of Russian heroes, a sinister Nazi officer and plenty of gunfire, but its director said it was not meant to fit into the standard action movie concept. In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda before the film's premiere, Bondarchuk said that "judging by the trailers, it has been said our film takes all the cliches from Hollywood movies" before adding that "I wanted in this picture to go into depth on what was happening in Stalingrad."
Read more in The Moscow Times