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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Battle of Leningrad: A DVD review

BATTLE OF LENINGRAD was recently released on DVD, having been given a cinematic release on 27th January 2019, just days before the 75th anniversary of the end of the siege.


Before I go any further, I think that it is important to note that the film's original title was SAVING LENINGRAD (Russian: Спасти Ленинград), and that it deals with a specific event during the early days of the siege. This was the voyage of Barge 752 across Lake Ladoga on 16th to 17th September 1941, during which a dumb (i.e. unpowered) barge, loaded with approximately 1,500 people, was supposed to be towed by a tug from Leningrad to the relative safety of the Russian-occupied eastern shore of the lake. It was done to show that civilians could be evacuated from the city, and soldiers and supplies brought in.

In reality, it was a disaster. The barge set off when the water was calm, but overnight a storm hit the lake, and the barge, which was heavily overloaded, began to suffer damage and take in water. On the morning of 17th September, it came under air attack, as a result of which it sank, and over 1,000 passengers were killed or drowned. Amongst those that died were:
  • 433 military cadets, including a whole class of cadets from the Leningrad Military School of Engineering
  • 132 graduates of the Military Medical Academy
  • 8 junior officers
  • 36 officers
  • At least 46 women
  • A number of children
  • 30 civilian workers and members of the Naval Medical Academy and the Navy's Hydrographic Administration
The film is a fictionalised telling of the story. It concentrates on a few main characters:
  • Anastasiya Alexandrovna Tkachyova ('Nastya'), a schoolgirl in Leningrad.
  • Konstantin Nikolaevich Gorelov ('Kostya') a cadet attending the Leningrad Artillery School and Nastya's boyfriend
  • Vadim Petruchik, an NKVD investigator who helped imprison Nastya's father
  • Mariya Nikolaevna Tkachyova, Nastya's mother
  • Alexandr Naumovich Tkachyov, Nastya's father
  • Captain (First Rank) Nikolai Gorelov, Kostya's father
As with almost all recent Russian war films, the quality of the special effects is superb, and the battle scenes are horrific ... and I suspect quite accurate in that Russian human-wave tactics using barely-trained troops only ever seem to succeed at the price of huge numbers of lives lost.

This is as much a love story as it is a war film, but above all else, it is a film about people trying to survive against all the odds.

BATTLE OF LENINGRAD/SAVING LENINGRAD was written, directed, and produced by Aleksey Kozlov & Arkady Fateev, made by Studio AVK, and released on 27th January 2019. The DVD is in Russian and German with English subtitles.

8 comments:

  1. I have been watching my way through quite a few Russian war films and TV series - definitely adding this to my 'to watch' list.

    Thanks for sharing!

    - John

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    1. John Y,

      The Eastern Europeans (and especially the Russians) seem to have produced a plethora of well-made war films over the past ten years. I buy most of mine in ASDAs, where the DVDs can be bought from between £3.00 and £10.00.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. It sounds like a horrific watch but an important story. I felt the same after watching the Belarusian film "Fortress of War" about the siege of the Brest fortress. Thanks for noting this.

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    1. Mad Padre,

      You are right about it being a story that needs to be better know. I think that a lot of people may have heard of the Ice Road, but far fewer will even realise that the Russians tried to maintain a sea link to Leningrad throughout the siege.

      I have FORTRESS OF WAR on my list of films to see as soon as I can get a copy, as the siege of Brest was an epic against the odds struggle.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. I'm going to have to start going to one of the bigger Asda stores. The nearest one to me doesn't have anything like this.

    It's a shame that more of these are not shown on the mainstream TV channels over here (and even more surprising that something like RT doesn't show them given its mission to show a side of Russia not portayed in western media). As a body, wargamers generally know that the former SU and its constituent states made the largest sacrifice and did the most to overthrow Nazism. It would help create understanding and perspective amongst the general population if more of these films were widely shown.

    I can only ever remember one Soviet made film set in WWII being shown on British TV and that was at the height of the Cold War, and no modern Russian WWII film.

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    Replies
    1. Nundanket,

      I tend to go to the non-food ASDA stores that are branded as 'George at ASDA'. These sell clothes, houseware, electrical equipment etc., and usually have a reasonable selection of DVDs and Blueray disks on sale.

      I suspect that most wargamers are better informed about various historical eras than the general public ... and especially some politicians! (For example, the question 'Where were the Kurds on D-Day?' springs to mind!)

      I occasionally watch RT because it portrays a somewhat different view of world events - which is never a bad thing - and if it was showing films like this, my visits would certainly be more frequent.

      I can never remember any UK TV channel showing Russian-made films during the Cold War, so the film that you saw must have been a real rarity.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. I only have vague memories of it. It was mainly about a boy trying to help the Soviet soldiers, and at some point meeting a slightly older girl who was an effective partisan (she didn't have his fear or qualms about killing). It may have been the remake of Syn Polka (Son of the Regiment, 1981) which is the nearest to my memory and the date that I can see on IMDB.

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    3. Nundanket,

      The plot sounds vaguely familiar, so I may well have seen this film at some time ... but I don't recall when.

      All the best,

      Bob

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