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Series / Life and Fate

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Life and Fate is a 2012 Russian television miniseries, lasting 12 episodes. It is based on the famous 1960 novel Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.

The series, like the novel it is based on, is a sprawling account of life in the Soviet Union in World War II, specifically 1942-43, during the battle of Stalingrad. The many, many characters include:

  • Viktor Shtrum: A physicist, evacuated to Kazan after the Germans came to the gates of Moscow, still there a year later. Viktor is a Jew, who has to deal with anti-Semitism in Soviet society, while worrying about the more dire threat to his mother, somewhere behind the German lines. Although he is married, he's taken a fancy to Maria Ivanova, the attractive wife of his colleague Pyotr. Viktor is basically an Author Avatar for Vasily Grossman, and the actor is costumed to look just like Grossman.

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  • Lyudmila: Viktor's wife. Although they are still outwardly polite, they have grown distant from each other. Lyudmila has a son by a prior marriage, Tolya, who is fighting on the front. She thinks that Viktor doesn't care as much about Tolya as he does about their teenaged daughter, Nadia.

  • Yevgenia (Zhenya): Lyudmila's sister. Married to Commissar Grymov, but they separated shortly before the outbreak of the war. She was evacuated from Moscow to Kuibyshev in 1941, and is working in a garment factory. She has a lover, Col. Novikov, who is introduced serving in the South Urals but is soon transferred to Stalingrad. Commissar Grymov, as it happens, is also sent to Stalingrad.

  • Captain Grekov: Commanding officer in House #6 at the front lines of Stalingrad, which is being used as a fortress against the Germans. At the start of the series, he welcomes Katya, a pretty young radio operator who attracts a lot of attention from all the soldiers in the house.

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  • Major Berezkin: Grekov's superior officer on the Stalingrad front. He worries about his wife and child; they were evacuated to the interior and he hasn't head from them in some time.


Tropes:

  • Buxom Is Better: A lively discussion among the horny soldiers of House #6 about Katya includes one soldier insisting that he likes big breasts, and that Katya does not seem to have such.
  • Crapsack World: The Soviet Union at the end of 1942. If you aren't getting shot at by Nazis, you're living under Stalin's dictatorship.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Col. Novikov gets one when Zhenya decides to return to her husband and follow him into exile.
  • Dying Dream: Just as Grekov dies in the Last Stand he has a vision where everyone from the squad shows up and they all embrace.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: A shot in the first episode where Major Berezkin is getting a briefing is only two minutes long, but it's a pretty intricate shot, following Berezkin through several small, cramped rooms, as a junior officer tells him about the tactical situation in that sector of Stalingrad.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
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    • Vasily Zaytsev pops up and tells his tale of a duel with a German sniper.
    • Lt. General Chuikov, commander of the Russian forces in Stalingrad, is also seen on a couple of occasions.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Two Russian soldiers are in the middle of a pitched argument about a gun placement when a German shell kills both of them.
  • Killed Offscreen: Tolya is last seen being taken away from Stalingrad after being severely wounded by an artillery shell. The next episode reveals that he died on an operating table at a hospital in the rear.
  • Last Stand: Grekov and everyone else in House #6 is killed when the house is literally wiped out by a German attack.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: It's a 12-part miniseries based on a Doorstopper book.
  • Man on Fire: A whole armored personnel carrier of Men On Fire, as one Soviet sniper hits a flamethrower's pack, setting a whole squad of Germans ablaze.
  • The Noun and the Noun: Life and Fate
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Zhenya has enormous difficulties with a bureaucrat who won’t give her a residency permit in Kuibyshev, seemingly out of sheer dickishness.
  • The Political Officer:
    • Commissar Roushkin, a minor character in the first episode. He is introduced wearing a flower in a buttonhole of his uniform. And he's drunk.
    • A much more honorable example in the form of Commissar Grymov, who is embarrassed by the Marxist lectures he's supposed to give to front-line troops.
  • Scenery Gorn: Welcome to Stalingrad!
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Maria and Viktor never do consummate all that sexual tension, although towards the end of the series she's calling him "my love" and "darling".
  • Urban Warfare: Stalingrad in all its pitiless savagery.
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