A beautiful, haunting, riveting film, that rapidly speeds up from "Burnt by the the Sun" into a whirling metallic maelstrom. Carries within it, elements of Dr. Zhivago, The Ascent and Come and See, but manages to meld them together in a gut wrenching visual nasty depiction of war. A full blood red technicolour horror, lucid portrayal of the German invasion and Soviet resistance.
Universally derided on its release in Russia, its impact is perhaps understandable, as this opens a festering wound; in dealing with politics, carnage and emotional pain.
The men are trapped in a series of vignettes of horror, as they battle with the world around them; the attack on the troop ship, burning people alive in a church, massacring gypsies, raping women, the dying solider wanting a woman, men freezing to death, all vividly splurged without the searing orchestrated strings of Spielberg.
Not the type of heroics Errol Flynn eased into the frame when he liberated Burma single handedly. Instead this digs into the frozen topsoil and then goes through the strata with an ice pick into the hard rock, to expose the worm ridden skulls. It is not a homage to "sacrifice" but an insight into a mind imprisonment; men entrapped by the fear of violence wafting from the screen, caught within a minute by minute tick tock, forever facing imminent death and watching the muscles twitch.
Religion appears as a secret code, when those who believe seek something beyond the sheer devastating carnage. Belief provides one point of redemption, as Islam/Christianity provides an alternative to paying homage to Dictators. The film has to hang onto some element of positivity, otherwise this gets bleaker and colder than a deep dark Russian tundric winter.
Returning to religion provides a meaning to life however it also leads to disaster, see the "30 Years War" for an equal devastation. Another point of redemption, the true kernel of the film are the human bonds forged, played out between the main characters, as they weave their tragic life stories within the scenery of history.
Beautifully acted, it carries on the father and daughter's story from "Burnt by the Sun" and takes the image of Uncle Joe, then rubs his pock marked face into the mire throughout the entirety. Although the man took Russia to victory, he crucified the country for his own glorification. If he had only known, the films they were going to make of him, 80 years later, when he began his purges/killing/tyrrany, perhaps he would have stopped and reflected. This film is a monument to the will of a people who endured Stalin and Hitler plus everything beyond and since.
Beautifully artistically shot, cast and directed, this is brimming with the most bitter humour, complete without buddy heroics delivering the war of "all against all."
The 1930's and 1940's were times when parents/grandparents lived and survived, this film brings home the full pressure those people faced, the complete antithesis to the paradise depicted in "Burnt by the Sun." An outstanding piece of film-making that makes any war effort produced by Britain and the USA (dirty dozen, where eagles dare" Colditz) just seem "boys own" when it stands next to this. Watch it, it towers as a monument reaching out to the psychological insights of Shakespeare when it meets its true match.