May 01, 2020

Visions of War



Visions of War
Ballad of a Soldier

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II this May, we look back at how Soviet and Russian cinema has depicted the war.

In 1949, film director Mikhail Chiaureli made The Fall of Berlin («Падение Берлина»). Its main idea was simple: the Soviet Union had won the war with Germany thanks to Comrade Stalin’s sage leadership. The entire Soviet Union felt love and admiration for the Father of all Peoples, and it was specifically this emotion (rather than, let’s say, love for the Motherland) that inspired them to great feats at the front.

The plot goes like this. One Soviet citizen with particular feelings of veneration for Stalin was Alexei Ivanov, a steelworker. Before the war, he had had the spectacular honor of speaking personally with the Vozhd, and even confided in him about his feelings for a girl named Natasha. With a heart full of love for Natasha and adoration for Stalin, Alexei sets out for the front, reaches Berlin, and winds up hoisting the Victory Banner atop the Reichstag, along with fellow soldiers Yegorov and Kantaria. Finally, amid the jubilation of victory, he encounters his beloved, who has been liberated from German captivity. Things only get better when Stalin emerges from a plane that has landed right on Reichstag Square. Nothing of the sort actually happened, of course, but the director had to show the epiphany of a new deity and the resulting jubilation of ordinary people.


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