Not Much Fun in Stalingrad

I recently had a chance to watch Stalingrad, a documentary from 2003 about the “turning point of WWII” that debuted simultaneously in Germany and Russia. It’s divided into three parts, the Attack, the Kessel, and the Doom. Like most war docs these days, it uses a mix of archival footage and interviews with survivors. Both Germans and Russians are interviewed, though as usual the Italians and the Rumanians are not. The film covers the broad outlines of the campaign and gives the veterans a chance to tell their (often horrific) stories about the battle. One real bonus is that the filmmakers got access to Russian archives, so there’s some footage that’s been rarely seen in the West and one genuine revelation about the battle. Most accounts end with the German surrender and 90,000 prisoners marched off to captivity, only 6,000 of whom would return from the gulags. What Stalingrad asserts is that up to 10,000 German soldiers continued to resist the Red Army after the surrender, living in the sewers for over a month and harassing Soviet soldiers until they were finally captured or killed. I’ve read a lot of books about the battle of Stalingrad and have never heard this story, so that definitely piqued my interest.

My criticisms of the film are minor. First, it did not ID the names and units of the veterans when interviewing them. This is very common on the various History Channels and it would have been nice if Stalingrad had used the same format. Second, I would have enjoyed a little more tactical depth. The battle is discussed in very broad terms and I would have liked to see a bit more detail. The film was made for a general audience, so I understand why they focused more on the individual stories of the veterans though.

The American DVD is unfortunately dubbed and I found that really annoying. I was hoping I could turn it off and get subtitles but no. They even dubbed Hitler when showing archival footage. It just sounds wrong to have some voice actor trying to do Hitler. Weirdly, the DVD extras include additional interview footage that didn’t make it into the film and that is subtitled.

Overall, Stalingrad is well done. If the phrase “3-hour Stalingrad documentary” doesn’t immediately send you screaming from the room, I recommend checking it out.

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