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Film / Leningrad

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Leningrad, aka Attack on Leningrad, is a 2009 film directed by Aleksandr Buravsky.

It is set during the 1941-44 Siege of Leningrad, namely the first winter when conditions were most horrific. Kate Davis (Mira Sorvino) is a British journalist who, along with her lover and fellow journalist Phillip Parker (Gabriel Byrne), flies into Leningrad for what is supposed to be a one-day tour of the battlefield. The journalist bus is near the front lines when it takes a direct hit from a German bomb. With Kate reported dead, a mournful Phillip goes back to Moscow.

But Kate isn't dead! She had lagged behind and wasn't in the bus when it blew up. A concussed Kate staggers around for a while until she is picked up by a truck. She eventually comes into the custody of Nina (Olga Sutulova) a young NKVD cop. Nina informs her superiors, and is shocked to be told that since the NKVD reported Kate dead, she has to stay dead. Nina hides Kate in the apartment of her sister Sonya and Sonya's children Sima and Yura. Together, they endure the terrifying siege, in which the Germans deliberately set out to starve the city to death.



  • Battle in the Rain: The opening scene has Nina in the trenches, as the Red Army fends off a German attack in that sector, in the pouring rain.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kate's decision to go back to Leningrad and save Yura resulted in her death in the city in 1943, and Nina died as well. But Kate did save Yura, who is shown in the last scene alive and well in 1965.
  • Book Burning: At one point Kate and Sonya find themselves burning books for warmth. Sonya chucks a book by Goethe into the fire and says that they might as well start with the German authors.
  • Child Prodigy: Little Yura is a chess prodigy who in other circumstances might have been winning tournaments already.
  • Could Say It, But...: An NKVD officer finds Nina and tells her the truth, or rather the facts that Kate didn't mention: Kate is actually a Russian expat who left the country when she was a small child, her father having been a general in the anti-communist White armies. The officer observes that someone may not know who Kate really is and that someone could get in a lot of trouble for harboring Kate.
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  • Danger — Thin Ice: Nina is in one of three scouting parties that are sent out over Lake Ladoga in an attempt to find a path across the lake that will bear the weight of trucks. A Red Army major falls through the ice at one point, and Nina tries but fails to save him.
  • Distant Finale: The film cuts forward 23 years to 1965 and a finale which reveals that both Kate and Nina died during the siege but Yura survived.
  • Driven to Suicide: Luftwaffe pilot Walter von Leeb, ridden with guilt over bombing and strafing civilians, flies his plane right at an anti-aircraft gun and is shot down.
  • Evil Laugh: A German pilot laughs after blowing up a statue of Lenin with a bomb.
  • Hallucinations: A slowly starving Kate starts having hallucinations. She sees Peter, who isn't in the city, and Sonya, who's dead. When her reporter friend Kornyov spots her on the street soon after she isn't sure if he's real. (He is.)
  • Heel Realization: Field Marshal Von Leeb's nephew Walter has a hard time dealing with the realization that the Germans are going to starve the Russians out.
    Walter: I always thought the Russians were the barbarians.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kate is taken out on the first caravan across the ice of Lake Ladoga—but she had to leave little Yura behind because she lacked the strength to carry him. She meets Phillip on the far side, only to turn back around and go back to Leningrad to save Yura, who otherwise would have been left alone to starve to death.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: As Nina walks through a bomb-damaged building she sees a corpse impaled on steel support beams.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Kate, who leaps at the chance to make a dangerous flight into Leningrad and report on the battle.
  • Laughing Mad: The starving man hacking a human leg off of a dead guy in the street is giggling creepily as he does it.
  • Mood Whiplash: Kate and Nina are emptying their stash of vodka and having a fun, giggly party of two, getting drunk and dancing to swing music. That is, until Kate gets a little too wistful about Phillip and Nina tells her that she'll never see him again, that the blockade won't be lifted and they aren't getting out.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: This happened in Real Life in Leningrad in the winter of 1941-42. Kate sees a man sawing a leg off a corpse in the street.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The NKVD goon who says that he reported Kate as dead, and his superiors reported Kate as dead to their superiors, so Kate has to stay dead. Nina realizes that she has to hide Kate, lest Kate be chucked in the gulag or shot.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: A man bumps into Kate on the street, and steals all her ration cards.
  • Sadistic Choice: At one point Sonya starts giving Sima more than her share of bread, because Yura is weakening much more rapidly and Sonya hopes that at least one of her children will live.
  • Schmuck Bait: Nina is already having problems controlling unruly civilians outside the bread warehouse when a German bomb falls feet away from them—but does not explode. The bomb has a bag marked "SUGAR" tied to it. The desperate, starving civilians swarm down on the bomb, despite Nina screaming that it's a real bomb, and pointing out that the bomb is still whirring away, on a time delay. Sure enough it blows up and kills everyone around it.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: Nina fires her pistol into the air in a desperate effort to fend off the hungry civilians who are trying to rush past her and raid the bread stores.
  • The Siege: The siege of Leningrad, and specifically the first winter when a city of three million ran out of food, resulting in up to a million deaths.
  • That's an Order!: Sima is so fatigued with starvation that she can't get off the chair when it's time to go downstairs and head out to the trucks that will save them. Kate says "Get up, Sima! That's an order!" But it doesn't work, and Kate is forced to leave Yura behind in order to drag Sima downstairs.
  • Together in Death: The ending reveals that Kate and Nina were buried in the same communal grave.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Nina is a hard-ass NKVD soldier while Kate is a glamorous blonde who likes high heels and slinky red dresses. Nina chortles when she first sees Kate's tube of lipstick. Kate toughens up quite a bit in Leningrad while Nina tries on Kate's lipstick and asks her about how to attract men.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Kate trades an eight-carat diamond for a single can of chopped beef.