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Battle of Moscow (Битва за Москву) is a 1985 Soviet, German, Czechoslovak, and Vietnamese film by Yuri Ozerov about the successful heroic defense of Moscow from Nazi attack in the Great Patriotic War. The film was released in two parts, as seen below:
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Film I: Aggression

Part 1

In the aftermath of the victory in France, Hitler decides to attack the Soviet Union and selects Marshal von Bock in charge of leading the Wehrmacht into Russia. Ilse Stöbe, Rudolf von Scheliha and Richard Sorge inform of the danger, but the Soviet intelligence dismisses their warnings. Zhukov is concerned that the army is ill-prepared; Pavlov decries him as a fear-monger. The Red Army officers are convinced that in the event of an invasion, they would immediately counter-attack. On 22 June 1941 Germany launches Operation Barbarossa, overwhelming the Soviets.

Part 2

The Red Army tries to counter the assault with a string of hasty operations, while the Brest Fortress is desperately defended. The Soviets manages to recapture Yelnya but having Major General Konstantin Rakutin killed in action. Stalin insists on defending Kiev, and his forces suffer immense losses.

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Film II: Typhoon

Part 1

The Wehrmacht enacts Operation Typhoon. Richard Sorge finds out that Japan won't attack the USSR at 1941. The Germans approach the Soviet capital, winning the Battle at Borodino Field and breaching the Mozhaisk line. Stalin decides to remain in Moscow.

Part 2

The enemy is at the outskirts of the city, yet the traditional 7 November parade takes place as always. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya is captured and executed, and Panfilov's men fight to the last. Rokossovsky begs Zhukov to allow retreat but is refused. After all seems lost, the Germans grind to a halt. On 6 December, the Soviets launch a successful counter-offensive.


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Tropes in this film include:

  • Action Girl: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, an 18-year-old girl who goes behind the lines as a partisan. After she's caught her defiance of the Germans establishes her as a hero of the USSR.
  • As You Know: Stalin actually says "You know, gentlemen," before telling the Stavka and the audience that an Evacuation Committee has been formed to organize the withdrawal of Soviet industrial capacity from the threatened regions to the interior.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie:
    • The film states that the defenders of Brest held out for 29 days. The legends of Soviet soldiers fighting in Brest for weeks after they were cut off are myth, although Major Gavrilov did in fact hide in the fortress for a month until he surrendered. In fact, Russian resistance at Brest ended after a week with the surrender of most of what was left of the garrison.
    • The last part of the film also depicts "Panfilov's 28 guardsmen", the legendary story of a unit of 28 soldiers who were killed to the last man, but not before they took out some twenty German tanks. This story was first reported while the battle was still going on, and eventually became one of the most popular stories of the Great Patriotic War; there's a big monument where it supposedly happened. It was eventually revealed to be a complete fabrication.
  • Based on a True Story: A narrator says five minutes into the movie that the film is a "historical chronicle" and that only real people and actual events will be portrayed. And not only that, they'll say who everyone is.
  • Battle Epic: Not just the Battle of Moscow, actually, but all of Operation Barbarossa, from the planning stages in Germany, the intelligence leaks to Sorge, the staggering defeats that the Russians took in the first day of the war, and the final stand before Moscow and the Soviet counterattack.
  • The Big Board: Hitler's headquarters has a big table map of European Russia, complete with little tank figurines and flags marking army groups, with the typical croupier's stick to move pieces around. Gen. Halder uses it to explain the plan for Operation Barbarossa to all the senior commanders.
  • The Cassandra: Gavrilov, the officer at the Brest fortress on the frontier who says that the Germans are coming, soon, that they will cross the River Bug (the border) and that the Soviets are not ready and their defenses are not complete. His commander yells at him for mongering and promises to turn him in at a Party meeting on June 27 (which turns out to be five days after the war starts).
  • The Cavalry: Yes, actual cavalry, Russians on horseback, galloping across the frozen steppe as part of the great Russian counterattack at the end. (This actually happened.)
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya is whipped by the Germans in an attempt to get her to reveal where the rest of her saboteur detachment is located. She doesn't crack.
  • Crowd Song: "Tanya, Tanyusha." It's a morale-boosting song about a soldier's special girl, sung by the Podolsk cadets as they march off to battle.
  • Defiant to the End: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, with a noose around her neck, tells the Russian villagers that she's not afraid to die and then yells at the Germans who are about to hang her that they can't hang all 200 million Soviets.
  • Driven to Suicide: A Soviet Air Force commander, confronted with the annihilation of his entire command on the ground on the first day of the war, shoots himself.
  • Dutch Angle: Taken to the extreme when Gen. Petrovsky is shot down near the end of Part I, while personally leading his men in an attempt to break out of encirclement. The camera flips a full 180 degrees until the image is upside down.
  • Establishing Character Moment: For Pavlov and Zhukov in their first scene, at a Russian war council with Stalin, where everybody is discussing a war game that went badly for the Soviets. Zhukov, who will soon become the great Russian hero, makes some pointed comments about deficiencies in Soviet defenses and how it's probably not a good idea to have so many forces so close to the border. Pavlov, who will become General Failure, blows off Zhukov's worrying and says that war games are nothing but chance.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: A Russian tank rolls over a parked car, which explodes.
  • Faux Fluency: Harry Hopkins, FDR's envoy who is seen briefly meeting with Stalin in Part I, speaks heavily accented English. (The actor was Czech.)
  • Glasses Pull: Halder does this in early July, 1941, before telling the rest of the General Staff that the Nazis have won the war in two weeks.
  • Got the Whole World in My Hand: The first shot of the movie (after the historical prologue) is Adolf Hitler's hand casually turning a globe in a conference room, before he turns and tells his generals that he's decided to crush Russia.
  • Historical Domain Character: Pretty much every character in the film, from Hitler and Stalin on down to their generals and then on down to people like partisan Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya and spies like Richard Sorge.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Stalin. No mention is made of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was Stalin's green light to Hitler to start the war. There is a passing reference to the "original border" which fails to explain that the Russians had a new border because they had entered into an alliance with Hitler and absorbed eastern Poland and the Baltics—which wound up backfiring when the Germans attacked less than two years later, when the Soviets still hadn't had time to finish their new fortifications. And his decision to attempt to hold Kiev is portrayed as a costly but necessary delaying tactic, when in fact it was simply a catastrophic blunder, leading to the worst Russian defeat of the war.
  • History Repeats: Everyone is struck with this thought when the Germans and Russians meet on the field of Borodino, where the French and Russians fought a huge battle in 1812. A German general says this very phrase to his men, mentioning how in 1812 they took Moscow, but not mentioning how that invasion ended in disaster anyway. The Russians for their part take 1812 banners from the museum and pass them out to the men as morale boosters.
  • Ironic Echo: The Germans play the "Beer Barrel Polka" early in the film as they attack, in a bit of In-Universe Soundtrack Dissonance. At the end the "Beer Barrel Polka" again plays on the soundtrack as the bedraggled German army retreats through fields littered with dead.
  • Last Stand: The siege of Brest, which lasts until the last defender, Major Gavrilov, is knocked unconscious and captured on July 29, a full month after the fortress was cut off.
  • Lecture as Exposition: A briefing for the German General Staff in the early going explains to all the generals, and the audience, the German plan of attack for Barbarossa, a three-pronged assault that seeks to encircle and destroy the Russian armies. This scene also serves to introduce four characters, namely Chief of Staff Halder and the commanders of the three German army groups, von Leeb, von Bock, and von Rundstedt.
  • Narrator: Vyacheslav Tikhonov, a big star in Russian cinema of the era, provides narration, sometimes exposition and sometimes comments about the ultimate fates of characters in the film.
  • New Meat: The Podolsk cadets, boys in their late teens. Word comes that the Germans have broken through the front, taken Yukhnov, and are on the high road to Moscow. With absolutely no reserves available to meet the threat, the Soviets take the cadets of the Podolsk military school and send them straight into combat. They perform well and hold back the Germans in their sector for a while, but are eventually annihilated when they attack right into a far larger German force.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the Podolsk cadets realize that the Germans hiding in the woods number in the thousands, and the Germans advance in armored cars, firing machine guns at the outgunned cadets....
  • Rousing Speech: Stalin gives one on the eve of the anniversary of the 1917 revolution, as the Germans bear down on Moscow.
    Stalin: German invaders want a war of extermination with the peoples of the USSR. Well, if the Germans want a war of extermination, they will have it!
  • Single Tear: Count von Schulenberg, the German Ambassador, after he reluctantly hands the declaration of war to Molotov. The narration notes that three years later von Schulenberg was executed for being a part of the July 20 assassination attempt against Hitler.
  • Snow Means Death: At the very end, burned-out German tanks and frozen German corpses litter snowy fields, as what's left of the German army retreats.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In-Universe, as the German tanks bearing down on a Russian position play a cheerful ditty, the "Beer Barrel Polka", from a loudspeaker.
  • Stock Footage: The film opens with a thumbnail sketch of European history 1938-40, starting with the Munich Agreement and then zipping through Germany's betrayal of that agreement in March 1939, the start of World War II in September, and Germany's victories in Norway and France in the spring of 1940. Being that this is a Russian film it doesn't mention the Nazi-Soviet Pact or the Soviets invading the other half of Poland.
  • Tanks, But No Tanks: T-34-85 and Panzer IV F2/G tanks appear prominently in the movie. Both weren't used until 1944 and 1942, respectively. Granted, finding enough pre-85 T-34 tanks wasn't easy.
  • Tank Goodness: Panzers versus T-34 tanks.
  • This Cannot Be!: Telegin flatly refuses to believe a report from aerial reconnaissance that a 25km column of German tanks has broken through the line and is headed straight for Moscow. He orders another reconnaissance flight, which confirms that the report is true.
  • Title Drop: Near the end of Part I Stalin explains his decision to hold on to Kiev as a delaying tactic, saying "The battle for Ukraine is also the battle for Moscow."

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