Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tanktober Film Festival: Osvobozhdenie (Liberation 1969-1971)

One great thing about Tanktober has been that it's given me the opportunity to discover some terrific Soviet and Russian movies. Chief among them so far has been Liberation (Osvobozhdenie), a five part, over six hour epic of the war on the Russian front from Kursk in 1943 to the fall of Berlin. The films were shot between 1969 and 1971, and were the most expensive war movies ever made in the USSR. I'm only half way through part 2 so far, but enjoying them immensely.

Compared to the sorts of movies being made in the west around the same time, Liberation really has to be seen to be believed. The sheer scale of the battle scenes of Kursk and the crossing of the Dnieper are extraordinary, with rows of Zis 3 guns and T-34/85s and SU-100s tearing across the fields. There are inevitable inaccuracies, such as the use of T34/85s at Kursk, but they have certainly made a big effort to make the films as realistic as possible, with some pretty convincing Tiger Is and less convincing Panthers based on IS-2s taking the field, although always in panzer grey.

One of the most interesting features is the propaganda in the film, and particularly the portrayal of Stalin. He gets a fairly sympathetic treatment, but is shown as largely deferring to his generals, with some of his decisions like that to treat Soviet POWs as traitors shown to be counterproductive. The Western allies are shown as dragging their heels somewhat with the second front, with some subtle distortions like the landings in Sicily being described as a response to Soviet success at Kursk.

Get hold of a copy if you can - Liberation really is very good.


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