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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Fortress of War: A DVD review

In one of the comments to my recent review of the BATTLE OF LENINGRAD, Mad Padre mentioned how good FORTRESS OF WAR was ... so I bought a copy.

FORTRESS OF WAR (Russian: Брестская крепость) relates the story of the defence of the Brest Fortress during the early days on Operation Barbarossa. It does it from the point of view of one of the few survivors, 15-year-old Sasha Akimov, who is a musician with the 333rd Regiment's band. It begins on the day before the German invasion, and introduces the main characters and their families. (The fortress was a garrisoned post, and the officers and some soldiers were accompanied by their families.)


The main defenders whose stories are told are:
  • Major Pyotr Gavrilov (44th Rifle Regiment)
  • Regimental Commissar Yefim Fomin (84th Rifle Regiment)
  • Lieutenant Andrey Mitrofanovich Kizhevatov (9th Frontier Outpost)
Almost as soon as the invasion begin, the unprepared fortress and its garrison comes under air and artillery attack, followed at first light by an infantry assault. The film then relates how the defenders try to stem the German advance in the hope that reinforcements will arrive to relieve them. Gradually they are worn down, and when news that there will be no relief arrives in the form of a downed fighter pilot, the defenders decided to try to break out of the fortress and reach the safety of the Russian front line. The breakout fails, and eventually the defenders are killed or captured.

Needless to say, the Russians are shown to be heroic and the Germans are depicted as brutal and underhand ... but in actual fact, this is not done in the crude propaganda way one might expect. The film has tried to keep as close as possible to the facts, and I understand that the Brest Fortress Museum supervised and approved the plot.

Once the fighting begins, the film portrays it with a relentlessness that is both impressive and brutal. It is a film that conveys what it must have been like to fight well-equipped attackers when you are defending an unmodernised, eighteenth-century fortress that has no heavy weaponry and limited ammunition and water. I am glad that I have seen it, and no doubt I will watch it again in the future.

FORTRESS OF WAR was written by Igor Ugolnikov and Konstantin Vorobyov, directed by Alexander Kott, made by Belarusfilm Central Partnership, and released on 22nd June 2010. The DVD is in Russian and German with English subtitles.

4 comments:

  1. I saw the film on Amazon Prime and agree, it was well done and from what I've read of the battle, reasonably accurate. Also very grim and not terribly uplifting, which I suppose you could say of the whole Russian Front. :)

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    1. Mad Padre,

      It was very gritty, very brutal, and gave the impression that the fighting was no-holds-barred from the start. I'm pleased that you recommended it, and I'll certainly be watching it again.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. A wonderful and intense film! This is one of my relatively recent favorites and your review has me inspired to re-watch it.

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    Replies
    1. John Y,

      I totally agree, and it's a film that I'll be watching again in the not to distant future.

      All the best,

      Bob

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