Russia premieres 'Stalingrad' epic with Oscar hopes

2nd October 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russian film director Fyodor Bondarchuk on Wednesday presented the Moscow premiere of his World War II drama "Stalingrad", an epic about one of the bloodiest battles in history, and which Russia has picked as its Oscar entry.

Made with a budget of $30 million (22 million euros) including financing from the government, Bondarchuk's new film is the first Russian film to be shot entirely in 3D.

The release comes as President Vladimir Putin is seeking to play up patriotism to shore up support after returning to the Kremlin for a third term as president last year following huge protests.

The film focuses on the battlefield friendship between five Soviet soldiers who are desperately defending a strategically vital apartment building against far-better armed Nazi occupiers.

It includes a controversial plotline about a Russian woman having a sexual relationship with a Nazi officer played by German actor Thomas Kretschmann, and who is depicted in a sympathetic light.

Unusually for a Russian film, the Nazis are played by German actors who speak in their native language, then dubbed into Russian.

"For us it was fundamentally important to show the German side not as cartoon characters," Bondarchuk said at a news conference.

"We didn't make a big deal of it. We just created a balance... But that's how it was. We weren't at war with cartoon characters."

The film is partly based on Vasily Grossman's acclaimed 1959 novel, "Life and Fate", which was suppressed by the Soviets and only published in the perestroika era.

The battle of Stalingrad began in August 1942 and saw the Soviet and Nazi forces fight at close quarters in the city on the Volga.

The Nazis eventually surrendered to the Red Army in February 1943 in a major turning point in the war. The Soviets alone lost more than one million troops during the battle.

Action scenes show German bomber planes zooming directly at the viewer and crashing in flames, while a constant rain of black ash falls across the screen.

Stalingrad's bombed-out buildings were recreated on a giant set built outside Saint Petersburg.

The city of Stalingrad was rebuilt after the war. It was renamed Volgograd in 1961 under the de-Stalinisation campaign initiated by Nikita Khrushchev.

Putin visited Volgograd in August on the anniversary of the beginning of the battle and met veterans.

Russia has already submitted "Stalingrad" as its entry for the best foreign language film category at the Oscars, producer Alexander Rodnyansky told journalists on Wednesday.

Bondarchuk's father, Sergei Bondarchuk, won an Oscar in 1969 for his film "War and Peace".

The film goes on nationwide release in Russia on October 10. It will later be shown in IMAX 3D cinemas internationally -- the first Russian film to do so.

"It's a movie that will clearly translate," Greg Foster, IMAX Entertainment's chairman and president, said at the Moscow news conference.

"It will play in other parts of Europe, it will certainly play in the United States."

Foster told AFP the film would be released in the US in January and February next year, and said he hoped it would be released in more countries if it was nominated for an Oscar.

The 2014 Academy Awards, the climax of Hollywood's annual awards season, will be held on March 2 next year.

© 2013 AFP

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