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4.1 out of 5 stars54
4.1 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 May 2013
I liked this quite unique and well made Spanish film, although it was ultimately less brilliant than what was suggested by some of web reviews I read before buying it. Below, some more of my impressions, with limited SPOILERS.

This is, I believe, the first movie ever made about the Blue Division (Division Espanola de Voluntarios or Division Azul), also known as 250 Infantry Division of Wehrmacht. This 18.000 men strong unit was created by order of Franco in June 1941 and fought on Eastern front on German side from end of September 1941 to its withdrawal by Franco in October 1943. Even after that, no less than 3.000 Spanish volunteers refused to obey and formed a smaller unit, called Legion Espanola de Voluntarios, but mostly known as Blue Legion - there were even new volunteers who came to join them! In March 1944 Franco ordered all remaining Spanish volunteers to return to Spain under pain of drastic sanctions and most of them obeyed, but about 500 remained.

Those die hard veterans regrouped mostly in two Spanish companies of Waffen SS, attached succesively to SS divisions "Wallonien" and "Nordland". Some small groups and individuals served also after March 1944 in Wehrmacht units, including the elite Brandenburg division. A group of about 50 Spanish volunteers serving in Waffen SS commanded by Hauptsturmfuhrer Miguel Ezquerra fought even to the bitter end in Berlin battle in April-May 1945. In all during the World War II the victorious Red Army made prisoner 372 Spanish volunteers, most of them in 1945 - they were all send to gulag concentration camps in all kind of unpleasant places. 286 survivors were finally released in 1954.

"Frozen silence" takes place integrally in a couple of days in February 1943, when the Blue Division was still a powerful unit, fighting along Germans on Leningrad front - this is why on the cover of the DVD you can read "Leningrad 1943. The bloodiest siege in history". Although no dates are given, the last day is clearly 10 February, because it shows the beginning of a massive Soviet counter-offensive, operation "Polar Star" which attempted to break the siege of Leningrad (it failed). It was during this campaign that Blue Division fought at Krasny Bor (10-13 February 1943) its greatest battle. All furious attacks by Soviet armor and infantry were ultimately repulsed and Red Army suffered horrible losses for no territorial gain at all - but hundreds of Spanish volunteers also died. It seems that it was after this battle that Hitler was heard to say "Spaniards are the only tough Latins I know"...

Now, returning to the film itself, it is important to precise that this is NOT REALLY A WAR MOVIE. War is of course the always present background, a tank rolls by from time to time, some mortar shells land here and there occasionally and yes, there is the very short battle sequence at the very end, but other than that no fighting is shown. In fact, it is a war time thriller focused on a criminal mystery, but also seizing this occasion to show a gallery of characters composing the Blue Division and showing the daily life of Spanish volunteers on Eastern Front.

The criminal mystery begins with the discovery (in the first minute of the film) of the frozen corpse of a Spanish volunteer, who was clearly murdered (his throat was cut wide open). On the chest of the dead man somebody cut a message in perfectly ortographed Spanish "Be careful, God watches you". Puzzled and concerned by the possibility that there is a deranged killer on the lose amongst soldiers, the commander of the Division gives the task of investigating this grizzly murder to a certain Arturo Andrade, an experienced and gifted police inspector in his earlier life, who now serves (for reasons which will not be fully disclosed) as Private 2nd class in Blue Division.

That covers the first two minutes of the film and about the rest I will say just that the criminal mystery is indeed well thought and it is not possible to fully understand what is going on until the masks are dropped in the final moments of the film. The identity of the perpetrator is very well concealed and he seems for a long time so terrifying, elusive and clever as John Doe from "Seven"...

The strong point of this film is in the climate of deep mystery, which at one moment seems to touch almost to the supernatural (but do not panic, this is NOT a horror film or a ghost story) and by moments reminded me strongly of "The name of the rose" with the lone investigator (and his sidekick) digging deeper and deeper in some very, very sinister secrets amongst a quite unique community of men (however no killing book is involved here)...

The images of the Eastern Front and of the daily life of Spanish soldiers are very well done. There is also a very powerful and absolutely nightmarish (and I am certain totally unrealistic) scene in which some soldiers play Russian roulette in front of a large crow of gamblers...

However, the ending of the film left me unsatisfied as some questions remained totally not-answered. Also, the way the investigator finally finds the solution has "deus ex machina" written all over it...

But still, I am quite glad that I bought and watched this extremely unusual and well made film. Recommended more as a thriller than as a war film, but nevertheless recommended. Its memory will certainly stay with you for some time...
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 January 2013
Just before Christmas, I came across this Spanish film from Gerardo Herrero, adapted from one of Ignacio del Valle's books. The action takes place on the Russian front in 1943 within the Azul division made up of 18000 Spanish volunteers, mostly supporters of Franco, whom the Spanish dictator had sent out as a display of his commitment to the fight against communism and to reciprocate the support that he had received from Hitler during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.

One fine frozen morning, one of their patrols discovers the body of a Spanish soldier whose throat has been cut with a cryptic sentence carved out on his chest. The Spanish command selects Arturo Andrade, a Spanish soldier who happens to be a police inspector, to investigate this crime, believing that the murder might be inspired by Communists. Other similar murders will follow and, when Andrade gets to the bottom of it, the truth is rather surprising.

Despite being in Spanish (with English subtitles), I very much enjoyed this film, one of the bets thrillers that I have been given to see in a very long time. The suspense is quite breath taking. The atmosphere - a mixture of suspicion and despair, including between supposed German and Spanish allies - is very well captured. The whole film "feels and sounds" realistic and it is easy to imagine how it could have been inspired by a true story. You empathize with the main character (or at least I did) who is no super hero but just an ordinary soldier who, because of his qualifications as a civilian, gets handed a rather impossible task.

There are some rather superb scenes and fantastic pictures, including one of horses that have frozen to death in a lake, where the first body is discovered. An air raid from Russian aircraft and a ground assault by the Red Army against elements of the Azul Division are also among the best scenes, although there are about half a dozen others that I can think about. There is no "happy ending" here, something which is hardly surprising given the context. The story takes place in early 1943 (probably in February) at the time the Red Army counter-attacked and tried to break the siege of Leningrad and after they had trapped and destroyed the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. I will however stop here to avoid any spoilers.

Well worth five stars
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This is an excellent film set in the dark days of World War 2 and during a dark time in the history of Spain when Franco ruled and sent his fascist underlings to fight for Herr Hitler. These were called `División azul' and like many other countries quite happily fought under the shadow of the Swastika. This is not a war film though it is a murder mystery with an intriguing back drop. It starts with the discovery of a lake frozen over with the dead bodies of horses sticking out of it in a kind of grotesque poetic and surreal way, also under the ice is the body of a murdered Spanish Officer.

Murder most foul is suspected and one Arturo Andrade a former Spanish police inspector is set the job of tracking down the killer in what in fact a great big killing zone. He is played by Juan Diego Botto who was in `The Dancer Upstairs'. There is a fair smattering of action as he tries to uncover the past and the truth with a sidekick Sergento Espinosa played brilliantly by Carmelo Gomez. The investigations take them to various locations including a fair bit of fraternisation with the locals and a very interesting game of roulette that takes no prisoners.

Director Gerardo Herrero makes no comment on the historical context of the film as it is still something most countries would not want to admit to, that of aiding the Third Reich, but leaves it hanging, which really works. It is in Spanish and Russian and a bit of German but the Russian is not always translated as it probably does not need to be, the actual sub titles are good and it runs for 106 minutes.

This is a well acted, paced and directed film that has some truly memorable scenes and tells a story albeit it fictional that highlights a piece of history that a lot of people would rather be air brushed from history, so there is a lot to give credit here and at the end of the day it is actually a rather excellent film, the SFX were a bit low budget but that is not enough to detract from a great all round piece of cinematic entertainment.
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on 30 January 2014
Watched this Spanish film using the English subtitles . it was a different kind of very interesting film with a number of good sub plots. One to watch again as most very good films tend to be.
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VINE VOICEon 2 October 2013
Whilst the film deserves a lot of credit for production values etc it fails upon the fact that ultimately the film is pretty boring. Its a well shot film, looks the part and the actors do a fine job. But the film just plods on whilst reaching a fairly dull conclusion based upon a fairly absurd and highly unlikly plot device.

The film takes on the whodunnit slant, with members of the what's left of the Spanish army in Russia being murdered for a particular purpose. The deceased have a message carved into their chest which only adds to the mystery. Stir in a heavy dose of Spanish wartime politics and mistrust of others, the waters only appear to get muddier. Eventually the pieces begin to come together to an underwhelming conclusion. Whilst looking incredibly crisp and authentic and featuring strong performances, the film slows down to the point that even the viewer may decide "who cares". And without giving away any spoilers, one certain plot device linked to one of the dead soldiers is beyond the realms of stupidity to say the least.
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on 3 December 2015
disappointing as I had hoped for similarly thrilling fare to the producer's great Argentine film masterpiece - entitled on the dvd cover - however, if winter WW2 front snow scenes are your thing then this flick of Spanish fascist soldiers investigating murders, whilst the T34's circle, might be your ideal glass of icy vodka. It's not bad, just a little under-whelming, though after the opening of the film - the scene with the frozen horses - you'll think you are in for a masterpiece
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on 5 September 2014
the main actors are good; the supports are cardboard charicatures. The plot lurches around, as a new revelation suddenly drags the story in a new direction. Ultimately very unsatisfying.
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on 2 October 2013
I saw this film since I borrowed it from a friend, who knows I am fond of war films.
I admit the movie is a rather fascinating thriller and a good acted one, but on the ground of war reconstruction it is an utter failure! Weapons and uniforms are essentially correct, but rendition of combat is simply ridicolous. The generally appreciated final battle is a poor childish play of cow-boys and indians, with russian soldiers in the background, lined up and steady like toy soldiers from a box, going to attack with the casual presence af a lonely tank, while spanish soldiers scatter around with no plausible reason behind a western-style barricade. Combat on the russian front deserves just another way of representation!
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on 14 September 2014
This rather 'odd' WWII film concerns Spanish soldiers fighting for the Germans on the Russian Front. The soldiers from Spain (called the Blue Division) were volunteers who chose to fight communism for Hitler. The story concerns how Spanish soldiers are showing up 'murdered' by having their throats cut and a children's prayer carved into the victims bodies. Its a bit strange in the first scene watching German soldiers start speaking Spanish to each other but you get used to it. Over 20k Spanish 'Blue Soldiers' fought against the Russians for the Wehrmacht in WWII. As a murder/mystery wrapped inside a War film this movie was 'ordinary' at best and not worth watching except for the Spanish component. A FAR better film with some slight similarities ( police drama inside a war film), is "The Night of the Generals" with Peter O'Toole as the bizarre German General killing prostitutes and the great Omar Sharif as the German Police Officer in the Army as well pursuing him even after the War is over. NOTG is a great movie--this is just an ordinary one
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on 13 April 2014
Who would have thought that the premise of murder mystery in wartime would work but it does. Great acting from all players, and the special effects are well done. Great story, and a really good film. Would recommend to all who appreciate good films.
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