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Film / Saving Leningrad

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Saving Leningrad, aka Battle of Leningrad, is a 2019 film from Russia directed by Aleksey Kozlov.

The film is set on September 16-17, 1941, just a few days after the Nazis cut off access to Leningrad and the 900-day siege began. It is based on the true story of Barge 752. Although the city hasn't run out of food yet and the terror of starvation and cannibalism is still off in the future, Soviet authorities recognize the dire need to evacuate as many civilians as possible. Unfortunately, with the land route to the city cut off, the only access to Leningrad is across Lake Ladoga.

So that's why 1500 civilians crowd onto Barge 752, hoping to escape to the eastern shore of the lake. Among them is Anastasiya"Nastya" Tkachyova , a young student. Her boyfriend, Kostya, is a rifleman in the Soviet Army. Kostya's platoon is supposed to go on the barge as well, but at the last moment the platoon is called off and ordered to join a Soviet attack on the Nazi forces that are holding the south shore of the lake. However, Kostya's father, a naval captain who is directing the evacuation, orders his son to put on a sailor's suit and board the boat.

Kostya does as he's told and gets on board the barge. Also on the barge, transporting government documents, is NKVD officer Vadim Petruchik. Petruchik knows Nastya—not long ago he arrested her father for suspected sedition and threw him into the gulag. Petruchik suspects Nastya as well, and he soon figures out who Kostya is and realizes that Kostya is not really supposed to be on the barge.

In any event, all three of them are onboard Barge 752 as it leaves, pulled by a tugboat. Unfortunately, the barge is rusty and worm-eaten, and grossly overloaded. It would just barely be seaworthy under ideal conditions, but that night the barge and its tugboat sail into a storm. And then there's the Luftwaffe planes bombing and strafing the barge, as the Germans seek to cut off the last fragile link between the city and the rest of the Soviet Union.


  • Auto Erotica: They are on a boat, but Petruchik still got his car brought on as cargo. That's how he manages to get a hot young lady into his car in the middle of a lake. They are busily making out when her chaperone shows up to interrupt things.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Mariya does this after someone else in the office mentions that Barge 752 sank in the lake.
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: As the barge starts to founder, the sailors and passengers start throwing freight—Petruchik's car, a grand piano—in an effort to lighten the load. It doesn't work.
  • Framing Device: An elderly Nastya in the present day remembering the fateful voyage of Barge 752.
  • Flyaway Shot: The last shot has the camera flying away from a memorial march for the victims of Barge 752.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The German fighter pilot comes around for another pass. Kostya kneels behind a railing, takes aim, fires his rifle, and kills the German pilot.
  • Incoming!: A jocular mood when Kostya is flirting with Nastya is abruptly interrupted when a sailor screams "Incoming!", and just like that, a German plane strafes the barge.
  • Lecture as Exposition: A German officer briefing, complete with maps, is used to spell out the whole Leningrad situation. The German army has cut off Leningrad by land, the city will soon run out of food, the Russians are trying to use a few dilapidated boats on Lake Ladoga to evacuate civilians, and the Germans want to stop them.
  • Man on Fire: One particularly unfortunate sailor is running around on fire as the Luftwaffe strafes the barge.
  • State Sec: Petruchik is a member of the NKVD, Stalin's secret police. The events of this film take place just a few years after the "Great Purge", Stalin's reign of terror in which he had something like a million people executed and millions more imprisoned. Nastya's father Alexsandr was arrested by Petruchik, and just recently got released from the gulag.
  • Stock Footage: Some combat footage illustrating the German advance on Leningrad.
  • Storming the Beaches: Nastya's father, pressed into military service immediately upon discharge from the gulag, is part of a Russian attempt to take back the south shore of the lake and open up land routes to the city. Unlike most examples, this instance of storming the beaches ends in defeat and retreat of the Russian survivors (in Real Life the Germans held the south shore until 1943).
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Babintsev is flat on his back as a German soldier is about to spear him with a bayonet. Instead, Alexsandr shoots the German soldier. Babintsev gets up, says "Oh my God, thank you"...and another German shoots Babintsev through the heart.
  • Title Drop: The film ends with Nastya in voiceover remembering how hard everyone worked "to save Leningrad".
  • Tragic Keepsake: Nastya still has Kostya's watch, still ticking nearly 80 years later.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Framing Device has Nastya talking about how she doesn't even have a photo of Kostya, and how the only memento she has of him is his watch. Yet at the end of the movie Kostya is alive, and in the framing device a young woman tells Nastya that "Grandpa" was a hero. So what happened to Kostya? Killed later in the war, presumably after he and Nastya got married and had a child? Maybe?