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Film / Stalingrad (1993)

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The battle that changed everything.

Rollo: Is this your first time at the front?
Lieutenant von Witzland: (shrugs) Everyone must start somewhere.
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Stalingrad is a 1993 German war film directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, following a platoon of Heer soldiers through their service on the Eastern Front fighting Soviet forces, centred around, naturally, the Battle of Stalingrad. Along the way, the brutality of the conflict they find themselves in leaves them demoralized, as they try to find a way to cope with the war.

See also a Russian film with the same title that also happens to star Thomas Kretschmann.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Child Soldiers: A young Russian boy named Kolya is captured by the platoon after attempting to attack them with a grenade.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: After describing how the Russians have completely cut them off, a German general tells his men to smoke if they got 'em.
  • "Dear John" Letter: During a break in the fighting, Rollo gets a letter saying that his wife has left him for a French POW.
  • Death Course: Much of the combat takes place in and around the various factories and sewers of Stalingrad, with Red Army soldiers hiding behind every corner.
  • Downer Ending: The remaining main characters are implied to freeze to death
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  • Driven to Suicide: Otto kills himself.
  • The Engineer: The German soldiers depicted are combat engineers, as shown by their extensive usage of flamethrowers and demolition charges.
  • Ensign Newbie: Lieutenant von Witzland, who lampshades it.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A Soviet child who was adopted by the protagonists is ordered shot by a sadistic officer.
  • Friend or Foe: During the assault on a factory, von Witzland's unit engages in chaotic close combat and one of his soldiers accidentally kills a comrade. Another one remarks that the hapless killer shouldn't feel too sorry, because this happens to everyone.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Several times. It usually doesn't work.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Averted. At one point the Germans and Russians call a truce to collect their wounded and dead, and some even start sharing food with each other, until single shot from Müller (no, not the one nicknamed GeGe) brings the tentative peace to a violent end.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Nazi German Wehrmacht vs Soviet Red Army. Although both sides are led by brutal, totalitarian governments which resulted in millions of casualties, and by this point in the conflict both sides were resorting to drastic measures such as resorting to armies of conscripts, the movie manages to humanize the individual soldiers on both sides and the horrors they face. At some point in the movie, due to the sheer chaos and horror going on in the battle, the front lines and factions disappear entirely and the characters focus on merely surviving, an endeavor they all fail in.
  • Gung Holier Than Thou: Just before the soldiers join the battle, they attend a service in which the chaplain paints the battle as one of Western Christians against the godless Bolsheviks.
  • Handicapped Badass: Hauptmann Hermann Musk, whose Establishing Character Moment has him quickly affix his prosthetic arm before leading the platoon on an assault against a heavily guarded factory.
  • Home by Christmas: On the train ride through Ukraine, one of the soldiers boasts that they'll take Stalingrad in three days.
  • Hope Spot: Reiser, GG, and Witzland find medical tags and try to use them to be airlifted home. Unfortunately, a riot breaks out at the airfield and the last plane takes off without them.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The Russian sniper Irina is found tied up to a bed Haller's stronghold. It's clear she's been used as a 'comfort woman', and the protagonists even plan to take turns doing the same. Hans puts a stop to it and lets her go, however. Hans at first was conflicted over whether or not to help her, kill her, or rape her. "Fick mich oder schiess mich!"
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Once the famed General Winter makes his presence known, the characters literally begin freezing to death.
  • Kill ’Em All: See Downer Ending above. All the German soldiers in the story die. Except Rollo and Captain Musk, maybe. They're last seen near a procession of Germans who are going to surrender.
    • Captain Musk is probably dead by this point as well. The fact that he just lies limply with his eyes closed and is completely unresponsive to Rollo's attempts at waking him up indicate that he succumbed to his injuries.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Though by the end, almost all of them decide to desert.
  • The Neidermeyer: The officer who orders war crimes committed and hounds Hans for being a 'Russian sympathizer'. True to form, he is shot by the remaining troops at the end.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Leutnant Von Witzland is a German nobleman serving in the Wehrmacht. The clue is in the "Von".
    • He also smokes with a cigarette holder.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. When a young private tells Lance Corporal Reiser his name is Müller, his response is "We've got too many of those", and nicknames hims GG (GeGe).
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: A short one, but Otto is less than impressed when Captain Musk tries to disavow any responsibility for all the crimes commited by the German army in Russia by claiming he isn't a Nazi.
    Otto: No, you're worse. Lousy officers. You went along with it all, even though you knew who was in charge.
  • Robbing the Dead: The soldiers steal good-quality boots from corpses, and a few later steal doctor-signed passes in a desperate attempt to be airlifted out with the wounded.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: As the hopelessness of the battle becomes clear, three of the soldiers try to get on a medical evacuation flight.
  • Shirtless Scene: The opening scene in Italy is laden with it, though with less focus on the women at the Italian beach.
  • Snow Means Death: As it did in real life at the Battle of Stalingrad, with the Germans freezing and starving through a Russian winter.
  • The Squadette: Irina, a Russian sniper the unit encounter several times.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: All of the T-34s in the movie have a 85mm gun turret. This type was produced well after Stalingrad, in 1944.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: The entire Sixth Army is trapped behind enemy lines after a Russian pincer attack cuts them off inside Stalingrad.
  • Uncertain Doom: Most of the German protagonists die, except for two soldiers who are seen surrendering to the Soviets. Their odds aren't great though. These survivors were sent to POW camps in Siberia, and very few returned home after the war. The majority actually died of diseases, sickness, and the forced march to prison camps immediately after the battle. The lowest estimates for the total number of German prisoners of war who died in Soviet camps during the war are around one million.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: By the time Otto shoots himself, the soldiers are so numbed to the horrors around them that they don't even flinch. His body falls to the floor and he is promptly forgotten about.
  • Urban Warfare: And it is hellish. Much of the first half consists of the platoon fighting to take one factory in Stalingrad, losing most of their men and then getting surrounded by the Russians.
  • Villain Protagonist: To a certain degree, though the enlisted ranks get off far more lightly than the officer class.
  • War Is Hell: The actual combat sequences of this film aren't very long. However, they are extremely brutal, chaotic, and nasty.
    • When the platoon arrives at an assembly area near Stalingrad, they walk past a field hospital where hundreds of wounded are being treated. And Reiser points out that they're not even in the city yet.
  • Winter Warfare: Once the Russian winter starts, hell becomes frozen over for the Germans still inside the city.
  • We Have Reserves: Witzland explodes at the general for treating his men as nothing more than a flag on a map.
    • During the initial assault on the factory, a soldier accidentally fires his rifle, giving away their position. Captain Musk then has him carry out a suicide attack to clear a machine gun nest.


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