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Film / Fate of a Man

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Fate of A Man, also known as Destiny of a Man (original title Sudba Cheloveka) is a 1959 movie by Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk, based on a short story by Michail Sholokhov. The film shows the fate of the Russian soldier Alexei Sokolov (played by Bondarchuk) in World War II. His happy home life is interrupted by the war, as he has to leave his wife and three children behind. He is assigned to be a truck driver, but during the disastrous retreats of 1941 he is taken prisoner by the Nazis. Now a captive of Nazi Germany, he is forced to work for the enemy all across Germany, while missing his family in Russia. Eventually, he makes a daring escape...

Directorial debut of Bondarchuk, who would go on to be one of Russia's most famous film directors. This movie was criticized by China, since the hero allowed himself to be captured by the enemy in a hopeless situation, rather than dying like a true Communist soldier.


This film features examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The movie greatly expands on the first half of the short story. Sokolov's time in the war takes up not even half of the source material.
  • Between My Legs: Sokolov's wife and toddler son are framed this way when he comes home from a night out drinking.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sokolov's entire family is killed in the war—his wife and daughters in a bombing raid, his son on the front lines. But he adopts a war orphan boy as his son, and he has hope for the future.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Sokolov finally makes his escape after finding a severely intoxicated German soldier and taking his uniform.
  • Dutch Angle: Used when Sokolov is sent to a camp that appears to be Auschwitz, and sees a line of people being sent to a crematorium.
  • For the Evulz: Well, all Nazis really, but especially that one camp commandant who punches prisoners at morning roll call for no reason whatsoever.
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  • Heroic BSoD: Sokolov gets one when he returns to find his home bombed and his family dead.
  • Impairment Shot: Things are blurry and spinning when Sokolov tries to get up after being thrown from his truck by an exploding shell.
  • Match Cut: A phonograph record shatters when Sokolov hurls it to the ground; cut to a shell exploding on the front lines.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Used for Sokolov's first escape, when he is desperately running through the woods.
  • POW Camp: Sokolov serves in several brutal, horrifying German POW camps, and also concentration camps, including what appears to be Auschwitz.
  • Record Needle Scratch: In-universe as Sokolov can't deal with a record that's playing a German song.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Played straight as Sokolov says goodbye to his wife on going off to war.
  • Whole Movie Flashback: Sokolov tells his whole story to a man he meets one day while he and his son are out and about.
  • Worthy Opponent: The German prison camp commander Muller, about to execute Solokov, is so impressed by his success at drinking a whole bottle of liquor that he lets him live.
    "You are a true Russian soldier!"
  • You Are Number 6: In the concentration camp Sokolov is #331.